Home | Marketing | HackerNews Should Implement Target=”_blank”

HackerNews Should Implement Target=”_blank”

John Doherty —  February 18, 2013
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If you’re reading this post, you should know the following ways to tag <a href=””></a> links on your website:

  • _blank – opens in new tab
  • _self – opens in same frame (default, can also just be left out)
  • _parent – opens link in new parent frame
  • _top – opens link in the full body of the window

One of the features (or lack thereof) that has irked me about HackerNews is that when I click on a link, it opens in the same window thus taking me away from HackerNews, which is where I went in the first place. Let’s say I click on the first link:

hackernews

It takes me directly to the page (watch the tab at the top):

hackernews2

But then I have to hit the Back button. Who hits the back button on the Internet anymore, especially techies like myself who live off of keyboard shortcuts? Why make me go from using my keyboard to using my mouse or trackpad just to go back? No one uses the Delete key to go back, let’s be honest.

What HackerNews should do, though, is take you to a new tab, like so (notice the tabs at the top):

hackernews3

Proposition

I propose a test. Dear admins of HackerNews, I would like you to implement a test for 24 hours.

Implement target=”_blank” on HackerNews
Track the time on site and number of votes over the course of that day
Report on it, and then make an informed decision.

It won’t be that hard to implement:

<a href=”http://on-advertising.tumblr.com/post/42994773187/maria-popova-have-you-made-1m-on-affiliate-ads-while“>Making $1 million from affiliate links on “Ad-Free” blog</a>

Becomes:

<a href=”http://on-advertising.tumblr.com/post/42994773187/maria-popova-have-you-made-1m-on-affiliate-ads-whiletarget=”_blank”>Making $1 million from affiliate links on “Ad-Free” blog</a>

This is how Inbound.org works:

<a href=”http://contentharmony.com/inbound-2012/” target=”_blank” id=”click-30712″>Inbound.org: 2012 By The Numbers</a>

Well HackerNews, what say you? I dare you to increase your traffic and engagement.

John Doherty

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I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

26 responses to HackerNews Should Implement Target=”_blank”

  1. It’s not something that bothers me personally. Whenever I’m browsing a site like that (reddit, Inbound, HN, whatever), I go through and open interesting-looking links in separate tabs (by middle clicking on the mouse scroll wheel usually), which I will then work back through when I’m done looking through the main window. Target=blank isn’t something which would affect my browsing habits really.

  2. Why don’t you just right-click the link and open it in a new tab?

  3. Do people really not use the back button any more? I do and I like to choose when I open in a new tab.

    • Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I rarely use the back button.

    • Personally, I use back button. However, sometimes it’s annoying to click on it multiple times to get back to page from where you started. Also, I think that people opens external links in new tabs/windows just to avoid clicking back button if they want to return.

  4. This is a horrible idea for two basic reasons:

    1.) I want to choose when I open a new tab. Don’t take that away from me.

    2.) It’s already done. Middle click. Yay.

    And sometimes I would prefer to click through to the article and then click back to the comment. That back button exists for a reason.

  5. An even easier method – Use the middle click on your mouse when hovering on a link. If you don’t wish to remove your hands form the keyboard, “Ctrl + Enter” will also open a link in a new window. The slippery slope of web design is trying to appease everyone. It’s best to find out if there is a way to make things work better for you, than to try and force your preferences on others.

    • G –
      This is actually one of the better argued comments here, so thank you for that. And I’d agree with you if it was just my complaint. I actually believe, though, that it’s better for a website to keep users on the site as that drives engagement, especially for a community site like HN.

      • More like drives annoyance.

        The problem with target=_blank is that I don’t know of a single browser that can override it. That is, if the website doesn’t specify a target, *I* choose whether it opens in the current tab (left-click) or a new tab (middle-click). If a web site specifies target=_blank, now I have no choice but to have a new tab open. This removes control from the customer AND prevents niceties like the mouse’s “back button” from working.

  6. Or if you consider yourself a techie you could do an extension for chrome or whatever browser you use to do that.

  7. What about using google reader for RSS (like I do for HN)?

    Once you have the keyboard shortcuts down (they’re mostly vim shortcuts or type Shift+? to get a list) its just “v” to view the full article (in another tab). :)

  8. Wow. Just, no.

    This is an awful, arrogant, and ill-founded idea.

    Is this somehow being posted from a 1999-era time machine, bringing us back to those bad old days, when every web developer thought they knew best about what a user wanted to do?

  9. Not to be annoying, but there is a keyboard shortcut for back – it’s alt and the left arrow on a pc – I use that a lot

  10. Please don’t take this the wrong way but it makes sense that you say in your bio that you’ve “worked in the Internet world for 3 years”. Your advice dates from the late 90′s/early 2000′s and comes across as very antiquated to people who have been in the industry since that time.

  11. I just hold down “ctrl” then click – this will open the link in a new tab :) The issue gets when you open and read it – you want to comment, so I also suggest holding “ctrl” and click on the comment section then again on the top link – this way you can read the article and then comment

    BTW – 1st world problem, no?

  12. I agree – target=_blank should just be common practice. I’ve taken now to right clicking all links and “Open in new tab”… but why should I have to? More to the point, why would a website want to drive traffic away from it’s site?

  13. It’s very telling that the people with, respectively, 3 years and 18 months of experience in the web are the only two people advocating this.

    Seriously — this is an AWFUL idea.

  14. Agreed — ridiculously simple and effective.

    Reddit is the same way. I just don’t get it. Maybe they have a lot of laughs in the office about it. Almost a barrier to entry, like you have to be 1% technical to use the sites. Idk.

  15. While I agree with you that the in-window-opening is totally obnoxious, I fervently disagree with you no one uses delete to Go Back. I do it like 100x per day, and all the other SEO folks I know use it also.

  16. I’ve hacked the code and modified it to open the new link in a new window.

  17. Hahaha, in case you needed any more proof about how useless / clueless “SEO” people are about the web, I direct you to this thread.

    Seriously guys. Know when to shut up.

  18. I don’t think I have ever used the back button either. I would just assume open a new tab and create a seperate search query. The nice thing about really any type of web development program (WordPress, Blogger, etc.), is that when you link something, you are given the option to pop up the links in a seperate window. All it does is add the “_blank” command, but still it’s one less step.

    Thanks