May 20, 2023

Hypertext is a technology that enables the linking of content from one document to another, allowing users to navigate through a collection of web pages or documents in a non-linear fashion. It is the foundation of the World Wide Web and is an essential component of modern information systems.

Background and History

The concept of hypertext was first introduced in the 1945 article “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush, who described a theoretical device called the Memex that would help users store and link information together in a non-linear way. This idea inspired the development of early hypertext systems such as the Hypercard software for the Macintosh in the 1980s, and later the World Wide Web.

The World Wide Web was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, who was working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. Berners-Lee’s goal was to create a decentralized information system that would allow scientists to easily share data and collaborate on research projects. He realized that the key to achieving this goal was to develop a standardized way of linking documents together using hypertext.

Berners-Lee’s solution was the creation of the first web browser, called WorldWideWeb, which was released in 1991. WorldWideWeb allowed users to navigate through a collection of web pages by clicking on hyperlinks, which were highlighted pieces of text or images that would take the user to another page when clicked. This simple but powerful idea transformed the way we access and interact with information on the internet.

How Hypertext Works

Hypertext is a system of interlinked documents that can be accessed via the internet or a local network. It is based on the concept of a document or page, which is a self-contained unit of information that can be linked to other documents or pages.

Each hypertext document contains hyperlinks, which are clickable elements that allow users to navigate to other documents or pages. Hyperlinks can be text, images, or other media that are embedded in the document or page. When a user clicks on a hyperlink, they are taken to the target document or page.

Hypertext documents are written in a markup language such as HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), which is used to define the structure and content of the document. HTML includes tags that define elements such as headings, paragraphs, images, and hyperlinks. These tags are interpreted by web browsers to render the document on the screen.

The structure of hypertext documents is hierarchical, with each document having a unique address or URL (Uniform Resource Locator) that identifies its location on the web. This allows users to link to specific documents or pages within a website or across different websites.

Advantages of Hypertext

Hypertext has several advantages over traditional linear text, including:

Non-linear navigation

Hypertext allows users to navigate through a collection of documents or pages in a non-linear way, following links that interest them rather than being forced to read or view content in a predetermined order. This makes it easy to explore related topics and find information that might be missed in a linear narrative.


Hypertext allows users to access information from different sources and in different formats, including text, images, audio, and video. This makes it possible to create rich, multimedia presentations that can engage users in a more immersive way than traditional text-based content.


Hypertext is scalable, meaning that it can be used to create complex systems of interlinked documents that can accommodate large amounts of information. This makes it ideal for use in websites, online documentation systems, and knowledge management systems.


Hypertext allows users to collaborate on shared documents and projects by linking their work together and sharing it with others. This makes it possible to create a shared knowledge base that can be used by teams of researchers, writers, and other professionals.

Limitations of Hypertext

While hypertext has many advantages, it also has some limitations, including:

Information Overload

Hypertext can lead to information overload, as users are presented with a large amount of information that can be difficult to navigate and process. This can lead to confusion and frustration, especially if the links between documents are poorly organized or designed.

Links between documents can break over time, as websites are updated or removed. This can lead to frustration for users who are trying to follow a particular path through a collection of documents. To address this issue, many websites use link-checking tools to identify and correct broken links.


Hypertext can be difficult to navigate for users with disabilities, such as those who are visually impaired or have mobility issues. This can make it challenging for these users to access important information and services online.