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A user interface system for displaying documents which, according to an early definition, “branch or perform on request.” The most frequently discussed form of hypertext document contains automated cross-references to other documents called “hyperlinks.” Selecting a hyperlink causes a computer to display the linked document. This is one of the foundations of the World Wide Web.

The point of hypertext is to deal with the problem of information overload. In print reference works (dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.), cross references consisting of setting a term in small capital letters, were employed as an indication that an entry or article existed for that term within the same reference work. However, that system made for a slow research process with frequent interruptions to locate the reference. Computer-based hyperlinks created the opportunity to display such cross references quickly with minimal interruptions. A hyperlink can lead to additional text, an image, chart, or graph, or an entirely different website.

Ted Nelson coined the word “hypertext” in 1965 and helped develop the Hypertext Editing System in 1968 at Brown University.

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