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XLink Basics
Looking for something new? Try XLink, hyperlinks on steroids.

| Out With The Old... |

Before getting into the details of how XLink works, it's important to understand the context in which it was developed, and the need and rationale behind it.

You already know that HTML comes with a way to link documents together - it's called the anchor tag, and it's the standard way of creating connections between different pieces of information in today's version of the Web. However, although the anchor tag is simple to understand and easy to use, it has a couple of drawbacks:

1. Every HTML link connects a single source to a single destination; it's not possible to have a single link point to multiple destinations.

2. Only specific, pre-defined HTML elements - the <A> tag, for example - can serve as links.

3. The definition of a link (the location it points to) cannot be separated from its source (the file in which it is contained.) Or to put it another way - you can't create a link without write permission to the source document.

These drawbacks might seem trivial in the context of today's Internet - it ain't broke, you're probably thinking, so why fix it? - but they assume serious proportions in the context of an XML world, which is built around data and the relationships inherent in it.

XLink was designed to address these drawbacks.

If you take a look at the requirements document for XLink - it's available online at http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-xlink-req - you'll see that XLink was designed to represent links in an abstract yet easily-understandable and usable manner. To this end, the XLink specification states the XLinks must:

- be defined using standard XML constructs, and follow the rules of well-formed XML;

- be human-readable;

- express information on the nature of the link (the type of link, its title and destination, or its endpoints) as well as its behaviour (the rules by which a link processor can access or traverse the link);

- support multiple destinations;

- allow link authors to define link endpoints and traversal rules without requiring write access to either the source or destination resource;

- provide constructs to allow link authors to control the direction of travel between links;

- maintain compatibility with existing HTML4 linking constructs.

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