Seeking One-Button BackLink Browser

Robin Hanson (
14 Sep 1995 00:58:30 GMT

The following feature should be easy to implement in a Web Broswer,
and would be of great value to me and others I know, but I haven't
seen any browser that does it:

Given that I'm looking at a page (call it page1), I want to push just
one button, and get a page which lists pages which reference page1.

This would give me "backlinks", the ability to follow links backwards,
rather than just in the usual forward direction.

A simple implemementation would be for the browser to paste the URL of
the current page into the query form of a web database that allows
searches on URLs. For example, the Open Text Web
Index has a "HyperLink" option in their PowerSearch form at:

This wouldn't get me all backlinks, but it would be a big improvement.
A simple variation would include the nearest anchor in the search, to just
get links to that anchor. And of course it would be nice if the
browser let users change the web database(s) used.

Backlinks were a central feature of early "hypertext" visions. They
would, for example, allow people to easily find criticism of pages.
Imagine that people at the home page of the CIA, RJR Renolds, etc., or
at some high-profile Op-Ed article, could find responding critiques
with just one button push! This might have profound implications for
public and commercial debate.

We seem so close now - why aren't we there yet? If money is the
problem, let's talk.

Robin Hanson
818-683-9153 2433 Oswego St., Pasadena, CA 91107 FAX: 818-405-9841
818-395-4093 Div. Hum. & Soc. Sci. 228-77 Caltech, Pasadena, CA 91125