The idea for this article came about the other day while I was viewing some of the recent posts on drop.org. I followed a link to an article, 'Blogspace Under the Microscope', on the O'Reilly Network. The author was talking about a 'mutation' and the next 'phenomenon' in weblogging. He was referring to 'backlinks' - links which point back to the referring web page - which the web site Disenchanted has been using for about a year. The article consisted of very few links and no historical or background information to the idea of 'backlinks' and implies that Disenchanted invented this idea; which is dismissed by an accompanying article on Disenchanted.
After a quick search on Google I came across an early mention of 'backlinks' - going back to 1997. This led me onto finding CritSuite and the whole idea of annotations - comments which can be 'attached' to a web page but are stored independantly. CritSuite also implements a 'backlink' idea in allowing you to find documents linking to a web page via AltaVista.
I had started at one point, a small post on drop.org (A), which led me to an article on O'Reilly Network (B), which intrigued me to do a search on Google (C), which led me to a historical article about WebEnhancement (D) and eventually to CritSuite (E), which brought together the idea of backlinks and annotation in one, user controlled, application, thus completing the circle.
Surely it would've been easier for (B) to have pointed me directly to (E) rather than having to go through, (C) and (D). A simple search by the author would have provided the relevant links.
This is the idea behind 'backlinking'; providing a route directly through the web following a well trodden and, hopefully, relevant path. If I had known about annotation as well I could've updated the information in the article for the author providing a link to CritSuite, or other annotation tools I found about once I had done another search on Google. I could even have written an article on annotation and added that to the original article, thus marrying the two ideas together. All this without touching the original article. I would've been providing more of a choice of paths from (B), thus helping to facilitate a choice of movement within the web, rather than the surfer only having the choices given by the author of the article.
Below are detailed three annotation systems which I have found and two, basic, ways of 'finding' 'backlinks':
CritSuite seems to be the oldest system for annotating web pages. As well as allowing you to add comments to any web page, you can also retrieve backlinks via AltaVista. CritSuite is extremely easy to use and the only downside is that you have to surf the web through the CritSuite web site.
Another, similar, server-side annotation system in use is the Annotation Engine. Although this system doesn't look as good as CritSuite it could still provide an interesting way of adding comments to any webpage.
Right click on the following link and save it to your 'Favourites' or 'Bookmarks':
Then, whenever you are surfing the web and you want to see which pages link to the page you are viewing, goto the saved 'Google Backlinks', a new window will pop up showing you the Google search results.