The Death of the Link and the Rise of the Embedded Internet

rise of the embed

Don’t get me wrong; I love URLs and hyperlinks. These elegantly simple systems for addressing content on the Web have made them the dutiful superhighways. But, I think that they may be going the way of the dodo.

Users are greedy for speed.

I believe this to be one of the main drivers of the embedding craze. Publishing platforms, like Medium and Facebook, are demanding embeds and content platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram are eager to enable them. Each understands the power of giving the user a better content experience.

Let’s dig a little deeper into why this trend is significant.

Embeds give readers instant context

Old fashioned hyperlinks convey meaning only to the extent that the linking author(s) does an excellent job of writing accurate and relevant anchor text. Embedded content allows the author of the content to carefully establish the context and metadata associated with the content, which then always travels with it.

Using embeds allow readers to scan the content snippet instantly in the context of its original publication environment.

Embeds give readers instant access

One of the longstanding challenges with new media content is the problem of walled gardens. Content platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have their native experiences behind a login. Linking directly to individual posts can be challenging or even confusing as these applications try to invoke a confusing set of authorization routines.

Using embeds allows the reader to view the entirety of the content without ever having to transition or authenticate to the source.

Embeds are immediately usable

Traditional links require the reader to leave the content, article, or workspace that they are already focused on to review the link referenced content. The question of whether this link will open in a new tab or reload over the current content is always a fear. Then, regardless of how the link is handled, I’m forced to flip back and forth to use the referenced content.

Using embeds allows the reader to use the embedded content immediately without interrupting their workflow.

Embeds provide readers a seamless experience

I think the bottom line on embeds and why they’re here to stay is the seamless content experience they deliver. You don’t need to manage a mess of pages, tabs, and links to enjoy a well-referenced piece of content. Instead, authors and publishers can deliver readers a full, rich, and complete reading experience, without ever leaving the page.

You need to start thinking about how your content will embed. You need to start developing content that is easily embeddable. And you need to start creating content that is effective as an embed.