Linky linky

By Phil Plait | July 25, 2006 12:07 pm

I surf the web a lot, and I have developed some habits that help me when I do. As I put together pages for my own site, I keep those in mind. I create pages in a way that I think would be the way I’d want to see them if I were to surf in to my site.

I set up my links such that if they go to other pages on my site, they open in the same browser window. If they go to another site, they open in a new window. That way, no matter what, you still have a window open on my site and can get back to it easily. I do this because I find it frustrating to have to use the back button more than three or so times to get back to the site where I originally started.

I have had some complaints about it in the past, but very few. But then I read this blog, which says I am losing readers because of this practice. I have learned over the years that advice given about blogs from bloggers is almost guaranteed to be wrong, because– let’s face it — very few people have any clue what they’re talking about. They like to sound important, I suppose, and so they talk at length about stuff and just make it up as they go (try listening to Sunday morning news programs if you don’t believe me).

Anyway, I figure I have nothing to lose by asking you, the BABloggers (I guess in fact you are the BABloggees), what you think. Should external links open a new browser window, or should they stay in the same window? Comment away.

Oh– the link above opens a new window. Of course.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: About this blog, Piece of mind

Comments (105)

  1. I prefer external links in an new window, but I’m using Firefox anyway and have it set up so that new windows opens in a new tab.
    Most of the time when I open links, I use the middle mouse button anyway to open the link in a new tab.

    By the way, what does your stats say about the usage of browsers? I would expect a scientific minded crowd to mostly use Firefox or Opera (or even Safari?) over Explorer.

  2. KB

    I’m with Thomas: The question is moot for any websurfer who is using the right tool for the job.

    Middle-clicking a link opens it in a new browser tab, no matter whether it’s a new window link or not. Nobody wants to clutter up their system with processes, and most people don’t want to finish reading the current page before moving on to a new one, so new tab is almost always the right way to go.

  3. Umm… Comments aren’t working. Or don’t SEEM to be. So forgive me if this ends up a triple-post.

    Like Thomas, I have Firefox open all new windows into new tabs. It’s the ONLY way to browse. Even if IE didn’t have a million security holes and abysmal standard compliance, lack of tab support alone would keep me from using it. (Although, to be fair, they did add tabs into IE7.)

    Anyway, one of the things I hate most about traditional “blogs” is that they have no bloody content. The “page o’ links” strategy that this guy seems to be advocating is the real user-driver-awayer, not to mention being just SO mid-90s. (Web Portal! Whee!) Actually, that’s not accurate. It won’t drive users away. It just doesn’t give them any reason to come back. I mean, I don’t know about other people, but I know how to use Google. So if all I want is links to stuff, I’ll go there. I read blogs like this one for the substantial and insightful commentary that I could never get just by going away and reading other sites.

    Finally, I want to share this comment from over there:

    “Judging by reader’s comments, this article was poorly thought out with no supporting evidence.

    This is the sort of thing that is most likely to make me unsubscribe from a blog.”

  4. I think forcing new windows on users is annoying, since you are attempting to override their choice: all the browsers have an “open link in new window” ability that any user can trigger easily. Also, it makes an assumption that users have the screen real estate for multiple windows.

    So I’m in the “please don’t make decisions for me” camp; if I want a link in a new window, I’ll do it myself.

  5. I’m another member of the Firefox crowd who takes full advantage of tabbed browsing. But, for the record, I’m also in the “open links in a new window” camp rather than “open links in the same pane.” If I want to follow a thread from a new link before going back to the origin, I would rather just be able to close a tab or extra window and have the original there – instead of clicking the back button innumerable times, or digging into my history file.


  6. Freedo

    For those of us who don’t have additional software and gave up using a mouse when it started becoming a pain in the wrist, I’d would nonetheless agree with my more sophiticated colleages.

    Opening a new window for an external link has a certain sublime logic to it. For those who don’t like, just don’t click, on one is forcing you.

    I’m a long time APODer and an’er and what I like most about this site is the passion of the Bad Astronomer and his usual suspects.

  7. I agree with my three predecessors. Firefox with tabs. I actually hate having a new window open, that’s part of the reason I use Firefox. Tabs saved me from this. I don’t have to worry about wether or not a web designer has windows that open in the same window or a new window. I choose how the windows open.

    Basically what I’m saying is, you can keep it however you want, it won’t make a difference to me. I’ll keep reading.

  8. Richard Board

    I use Netscape and IE both and have bookmarked BA in both browsers. I prefer links to open a new window for precisely the reason Phil mentioned. If I run out a link to several pages and decide to abandon it, I want to close it (the new window) and still have the BA window open. After all, I usually went to the BA site deliberately, so that’s my primary point of interest – at least at that moment.

  9. adam

    i use safari (and tabs) so it’s not a problem when i do go to your site.

    that being said, i ‘view’ your website through an RSS viewer most of the time anyway.

  10. Navneeth

    Who needs windows when you have tabbed browing? Clicking the mouse wheel (middle button) does the job for me, a Firefox user.

    Btw, I think you can get tabs in IE6 by installing the Google Toolbar. (I’m not able to check that, becuase Google is SO intelligent that it takes me directly to the Firefox download page.)

  11. Some people to say that opening up any new windows is bad (I believe that even Jakob Nielsen has spoken out against it), whenever anyone talks about this it seems to be related to popup advertising windows (or worse) and I can see how that would annoy people. On the other hand I have worked in the industry for 10 years and have never known of anyone complaining againt such rational use as described here and I certainly open up external links in a new window from my own site.

    Internal – same window, external new window gets my vote. Especially now with the greater availability of tabbed browsers.

    Great blog/site by the way. Keep it up!

    – Dave

  12. If I want to keep the current window open, I right-click and open the link in a new tab or window. I generally prefer not to have the website open a new window for me, but the right-click overrides that behavior, so it doesn’t matter much.

  13. Zeke

    I like it just how it is I cannot stand when links interrupt my viewing, I used to use firefox but I thought I would try IE 7 now in IE 7 (beta version) tabs are a default setting, so now all the major web browsers use tabbing

  14. Michael Campbell

    +1 for “I’ll make my own decisions”, and another Firefox user. I would even go so far as to have a greasemonkey script (or equivalent) take OUT the “target=_blank|new|etc” HTML, so I get to make my own choice as to whether or not I want a new window.

  15. Michelle Rochon

    Either way, I don’t really care. Both load up the page!

    And frankly… Come on. Losing readers because a window pops up? That’s silly. And people that has Firefox just has to center click on the link if it annoys them so much! It opens a new tab instead of a full new window!

    It reminds me of the time someone told me I was losing readers on something because I have a perverted character in my comic’s story. The guy went ‘I represent 50% of the americans when I say that to you, missy. You’re too perverted.’

    …Wow. I had no idea I had that many readers! Sweet!

  16. Hi, Phil. I’m with the “opens in a new window” crowd. But, of course, the real solution to this is tabbed browsing.

  17. hale_bopp

    I also use Firefox and have it set to open in a new tab.

    Gee, Phil, sounds like you asked a bunch of people who went and solved the problem before you knew it existed :)


  18. Robert McGrew

    Not broke so don’t fix it. Folks with modern browsers can make it work as they prefer anyway.


  19. I use Firefox… I just open everything in new tabs. :-) So it doesn’t matter to me!

  20. For me, it does not matter what you do. I’m going to force it to open in a new tab whether it does or not. The only problem with forcing it to open in a new window, is that people who do not want it to do so, have no choice in the matter… Thus, illiminating choice for those users. However, in no way do I think you are chasing away users by doing so. Your content will keep them coming back!

  21. Well, I see that N people have all argued very eloquently in favour of tabbed browsing, so to that I can only say “Ditto”. (In Soviet Russia, web browsers keep tabs on you!)

    On an almost completely unrelated note, my copy of the Bad Astronomy book arrived yesterday. It was thoroughly good; in fact, I’d say the individual chapters ran the gamut from good to awesome. (-:

  22. If I want a link to open a new window (new tab, really), I’ll right-click and it myself. Otherwise, I expect it to stay in the same window, unless there’s a really compelling reason (beyond the author’s vanity) to do otherwise. Such as a pop-up “help” window.

  23. Sally

    Amazing the things some people get worked up about. I have had no problems with your blog and links. Thanks for putting out such a great blog, by the way!

  24. ttt

    Using Opera here… and middle-click is set to open a page in a new tab, but in the background. Very convinient, very simply.
    So no harm done if the links are set to open in a new window for me. On the other hand, if I really would like a link to reuse the currently open window, then I’d have to right click on the link, then click open. Bit of a hassle, but no problem really.

  25. OptimusShr

    I use Firefox but I prefer new windows to the tabs.

  26. Nick Codignotto

    I’m also in the “please don’t make decisions for me” camp.

  27. Calli Arcale

    I open links in new tabs regardless, so I almost never notice when a URL’s target is set to _blank or somesuch. And when it is, I don’t lose sleep over it. I figure there are valid design justifications for either philosophy — new window, old window, whatever. It’s not a biggie. The only thing that really bugs me is when the link is done using Javascript instead of a normal hyperlink tag. But even that isn’t something that’ll drive me away from a site. Content is what matters most to me; secondarily, how often it is updated, and coming in a distant third, site design. Seriously. I mean, I’ve been seriously web surfing since 1994. I’ve seen it all. In the end, site design usually just comes down to bells and whistles. Organization I care about, but as long as I can find the important stuff on a site reasonably easily and the site works in my browser without looking too hideous, the site design isn’t going to be a factor in deciding whether or not to visit.

    There are those for whom site design is a deciding factor, but they are a small percentage. Some people have specific annoyances that will indeed drive them away: for instance, IE-specific websites serious offend certain users, and animated banner ads with irritatingly obtrusive Flash or Shockwave animation will offend certain other users. And of course, there are groups who are fundamentally offended by the exact opposite design decisions. But for most people, what matters isn’t the packaging. It’s the actual meat of the site. What can they read? What can they see? What can they do? That’s what decides your readership, for the most part. Especially with blogs. Most people don’t come to blogs for fine examples of web design, although many will appreciate good web design. They come to blogs to read stuff. So don’t fret overmuch about the web design. Make decisions which make sense to you, and which allow you to concentrate on the really important stuff, like content. You can have the best web design in the world, but if your last interesting blog entry is from June 2005, you really will lose traffic.

    PS For what it’s worth, on my sites, external links go to the same window. This is how I usually like sites to work. But I’ve seen enough websites do otherwise that I’m fairly used to both behaviors. It’s just a matter of personal preference; I don’t find either strategy to really be “better”, so it really comes down to what the owner of the website prefers.

  28. Charlie in Dayton

    I speak as a user, not a site developer…
    Just out of habit, I right-click links and choose it myself whether to open a link in the same window, a new window, a new tab, or whatever’s offered depending on browser. Occasionally I’ve been known to fire up a whole new browser session for a different subject, so I can keep things separate without inadvertently closing something.
    Doesn’t really matter to me what the link itself opens, ’cause I override it. I have the power…

  29. Grand Lunar

    I prefer a new window to open.

    It makes it easier for reference purposes. Also, it’s useful in case something goes wrong with the new page that opens.

  30. I like more the “New window” procedure on this blog… basically i want to read everything and then follow up surfing to other sites…

    btw i use Netscape si i use a “new tab” instead of a “new window”

  31. I very often open links in new tabs (via a middle-click or cmd-click in Firefox), but I generally prefer to make that decision myself. (In fact, I’ve configured my browser to warn me when links aim at new windows: I find it rather irritating when I don’t expect it.) It helps at least a little that I have Firefox set to open such links in new tabs.

    For some reason, I’ve tended to associate this “new window” style of site with overly aggressive marketing efforts (“Don’t run the risk that your customers will get away!”). That being said, it’s common enough that I don’t generally worry about it too much (at least now that I’ve taken measures to guard against it).

    Out of curiosity, what is the advantage of imposing “open in new window/tab” on all readers by default rather than giving them the chance to decide for themselves (via middle-click, cmd-click, or whatever they usually use)? Don’t people already naturally browse this way if that’s what they prefer? (Is there a simple click-modifier key in Firefox that will give me the option to cancel your “open in new window/tab” default if I want to?)

  32. [I’m having trouble submitting this comment, so my apologies if it posts more than once.]

    I very often open links in new tabs (via a middle-click or cmd-click in Firefox), but I generally prefer to make that decision myself. (In fact, I’ve configured my browser to warn me when links aim at new windows: I find it rather irritating when I don’t expect it.) It helps at least a little that I have Firefox set to open such links in new tabs.

    For some reason, I’ve tended to associate this “new window” style of site with overly aggressive marketing efforts (“Don’t run the risk that your customers will get away!”). That being said, it’s common enough that I don’t generally worry about it too much (at least now that I’ve taken measures to guard against it).

    Out of curiosity, what is the advantage of imposing “open in new window/tab” on all readers by default rather than giving them the chance to decide for themselves (via middle-click, cmd-click, or whatever they usually use)? Don’t people already naturally browse this way if that’s what they prefer? (Is there a simple click-modifier key in Firefox that will give me the option to cancel your “open in new window/tab” default if I want to?)

  33. Darrin

    I hate it when a web site decides I need a new window open. That’s my decision, and I can hold down the appropriate modifier key if I want to. It should also be my decision if I want a new window or a new tab. I usually prefer tabs.

  34. Darrin

    By the way, your site has recently started rendering very oddly in Safari (at least on my machine). When I open this page, for example, I see the header, then on the left below that, I see the category titles “Bad Astronomy,” “Good Astronomy,” and “Media/Events”, the middle of the page is blank, and on the right, I see the sub-categories (“Misconceptions,” “Movies,” “News,” etc.). Then below all that mess is the actual article. Anyone else seeing that in Safari? It looks horrible, though maybe it’s something I’ve done to my browser. I’m not sure.

  35. Shawn S.

    Your site is set up just fine. I don’t have a problem with the way you do links. In fact, I prefer it that way. I wish SWIFT (James Randi’s commentary) did that consistantly with links that go from the site.

    Good content, good design.

  36. Sometimes those links will contain annoying, or worse, IE breaking garbage. Sometimes it will auto-redirect to another page immediately, so if I am to hit the backbutton I’d have to do it multiple times. Given that, I would much rather have everything open in a new window. That way I can close the window and still have your blog open exactly where I left off.

    Firefox or no.

  37. What everyone else said.

    Basically I don’t think it matters as long as you’re consistent about it. You’re logic will never agree with everyone’s, but as long as it’s the same across all your sites then returning visitors will adapt and new visitors will accept it.

    Generally I expect links that are in the midst of a comment to open in a new window, as they generally contain information relating to the comment and so you might want to show them side by side.

    Sidebar links are different, generally you’re clicking on them to leave a site so it’s nice if you warn users that you’ll get a new window.

    But, like so many others, I’m using Firefox, tabbed browsing so it’s all irrelevant. If people are honked off by a websites behaviour then there’s an extension to fix it for them, TargetAlert is all I need and I can see if I’m getting a new window before I click a link and so can force it to the current window or a tab if I want.

  38. snarkophilus

    As a once-upon-a-time site developer, I spent a fair bit of time looking into this. It turns out that it really doesn’t matter much: if you have content that people want, they will visit regardless of how you open links, whether or not you have frames, et cetera. This should be especially true for a site like this, where you have a devoted core audience that will come back no matter what.

    The only non-content things that really impact audience are things which slow down the surfing experience. Ugly colour schemes which make it hard to read are bad. Slow-loading animations are bad (unless you have a little counter which people can watch as it loads — for some reason, that’s entertaining). Too many pictures is bad. Too many pop-ups is bad. You get the idea.

    The biggest thing I learned is that you can’t trust the average person to figure things out on his own. While most of the comments here are from people who can configure their own browsers, the majority of people in the world can’t. So although for some people it would be convenient to open the link in the same window by default and let the user deal with it, most people just don’t know how to open a link in a new window or tab. So I think you’re doing the right thing.

    Though there’s no right-click option to overcome new windows, IE 6 users who want to open in the same window can just grab the link, drag it to the address bar, and let it go.

    Personally, I think new windows are just as good as tabs. I’ve never seen any advantage to tabbed browsing: after all, whether in Windows or KDE, I have a task list at the bottom of the screen. It’s there anyway, and doesn’t take up the extra screen room that tabs require.

  39. I ALWAYS make an external link open in a new window… that way even if the person gets lost in cyberspace surfing aimlessly through this new window, when they finally close it, my site is still right in front of them.

  40. Mark Hansen

    I don’t have a problem with an external link opening in a new window. That’s the way I would open them anyway. And the penalty? I have to close just one more window. It takes me less effort to close one window than it does to get worked up about having a new window opened.
    “You can’t please everyone so you’ve got to please yourself”

  41. I find it very annoying when a website takes control of how links open. It’s my decision, not the websites. A good compromise is, I have found, to have a javascript-checkbox that is unchecked by default, and that people can click, and then all links open in a new window. Preference stays in a cookie. This lets people who find it challenging to use the mouse or their browser to get the behaviour they prefer as well. Personally I do not need that.

    And yes, luckily Firefox can fix the worst offenders, so I am not as annoyed by that as I used to be.

  42. Flatted Fifth

    New Window. I use firefox specifically so I can use the ‘Super Drag and go’ extension so I can drag links to open them as a new tab. I can’t surf without this.

  43. Dave

    Okay, that is the second time I posted a comment and had it flagged as potential spam. What gives?

    I’ve posted some other comments in between those two, so I know it’s not anything too obvious like me having a banned IP. If you could either post what sets that off or email me (assuming my email is something you can see Phil), I’d appreciate it greatly!

    The only thing that come to mind is length of comments. I posted no links, no emails, didn’t use any HTML….

    Now, that IS annoying! Not too much though.


  44. SteveHB

    Same window. I hate having new ones pop up and the Back button is too easy to use.

  45. David Vanderschel

    For folks using browsers in which it is possible for the user to configure this behaviour, you have removed an option, namely “open in same window (and/or tab)”, an option that some people might have preferred. As it turns out, it does not bother me, because the behaviour you tried to force can be (re)configured in Firefox to result in the behaviour I prefer – namely “open in new tab”. (I also use the All-In-One Mouse Gestures Extension which provides separate mouse gestures for all possible methods of following any link – same tab, new tab, new window; so I have an easy way which avoids my ever being locked in to any Web master’s choice on this issue.)

    I have configured Firefox so that, by default, links to another page on the same site open in the same tab. OTOH, I have configured it so that links to different sites ALWAYS open in a new tab – whether the Web master tried (as you did) to force that behaviour or not. Though I personally approve of your choice, it is, nevertheless, not one that I think you should force on folks.

    Phil, for someone who browses the Web as much as you claim you do, it appears that you have been missing out on tabbed browsing, which is pretty widespread these days. Had you already been a fan of tabbed browsing, I think you might have approached this issue differently.

  46. Rumour Mongerer

    Just to those “make my own decision” people, if the web page developer has decided to make the page open in the same window, how is that different from making the decision for you for opening in a new window?

  47. Keerax

    I actually prefer all links to open in a new window. I hate when I’m halfway through an article and I click on a link that whisks me away to another site only to lose what I was reading in the first place.

  48. monolithfoo

    I’ve been clicking links in FireFox so as to MAKE them open in a new window. I didn’t notice that you did the courtesy of doing it in your blog anyway. So count me in the new window group.

  49. Max Fagin

    I love the fact that new windows are opened from every link in this site, and I’m curious why anyone wouldn’t read your blog beacuse because of it. If you loose readers of your excilent writing just because they don’t like the websites prefrences, good ridance!

  50. monolithfoo

    I have to add though. I write pages that newbies use. The ‘open in a new window’ thing often confuses and frustrates them…. but paradoxically those self same people, when shown how to open it into a new window on demand, do that and never look back (or fall in love with tabs). Maybe it’s just a control issue?

  51. PK

    Just to add to the choir: Firefox with tabs. And I would like to see that for links in the comments too!

  52. PK

    And for all the people who don’t like the new window: use Firefox and force links to open in the same tab/window. It’s that easy!

  53. Open in the same window please for me – always. If I want it to open in a new window (actually, a new tab in Firefox) I can hold control when i click the link. I find it really irritating to be clicking the back button, wondering why it’s not going back, and then realizing I’m in a new tab that needs closing.

    Just my opinion, of course.

  54. PaulM

    Count me as another person who likes links to open in the current window. That’s the standard behaviour, after all. Anything else is unexpected. If I want to open a link in a new window (or tab in my case, I’m another FireFox user) I’ll middle-click on the link.

    That said, having new tabs open against my will isn’t enough to stop me visiting a site, it’s just an annoyance I have to work around.

    It is an annoyance though.

  55. Wayne

    I use a variety of platforms and browsers (Safari at the moment), and they ALL have tabs. If you use IE and want to add tabs, get the Avant browser since it’s free and uses the IE engine. I can’t stand using IE without tabs, and can’t imagine anyone who would prefer it if given the choice.

    I vote for no change.

  56. Simple Guy

    PK ditto: “Firefox with tabs. And I would like to see that for links in the comments too!”

  57. Feijoo

    I like it when the original window stays open. That said, I can deal with either method. I would never stop reading an excellent, informative, fun blog like BadAstronomy just because of the way links open. Since Kevin at LexBlog is addressing legal marketing, perhaps his comments don’t apply to you anyway. I guess I can imagine not hiring a lawyer because his “marketing blog” opened links in a way that annoyed me. . .nah, I can’t even get worked up about that.

  58. Irishman

    My preference is to default open in same window. If I’m reading things like this blog where I want to check a link and keep the original open, I’ll either open a new window or copy paste the link to the new window. (Yes, that’s how I do it.)

    However, there is one advantage to opening a new window by default – if I’m editing in the blog message window and then check something in the text and accidentally bump a link, I don’t lose my work, just opens a new window. Hmmmm. A benefit I hadn’t considered.

    Still, I prefer default to same window.

  59. bs


    c’mon everyone, just drop IE and get with the program.

  60. Daniel

    I’m with the “leave it like you’ve got it” crowd. Opening up a new window can be annoying, but that’s mainly when I’m trying to navigate between pages on the same site. For an external link though, it’s better to open in a new window as I might not be done with the current site and having it be replaced by the link is a pain. So internal – same window, external new window is the best balance.

    Although like many other above, this is more or less a non-issue for me. I use Firefox and it’s tabing capabilities most of the time, and when I use IE I just right click links whenever I want them to open in a new window.

  61. RM

    Wow, apparently I’m THE guy still using Internet Exploder. I’m glad to meet myself.

    So, as an unelected representative of said platform, I strongly favor NEW windows for external links.

    In fact, I find the converse to your stated case eminently more frustrating: losing my original launch site as I browse new links launched in the same window.

  62. Elyk

    Always open different sites in a new window. Keeping your site open on the previous window will KEEP visitors at your page. You don’t want them getting lost on another site and forgetting about yours.

  63. Elyk

    And yeah…I thought everyone had Firefox by now. I even had mozilla when it was popular…

  64. Nick Theodorakis

    I never noticed that your external links open in new windows because I usually right clink to open links in new tabs (using Firefox) if I don’t want to lose my place. Having said that, I prefer that links are not written to open in new windows; if I don’t want a new tab, I prefer to keep the same window, and I hardly ever want a whole new browser window open.

    I’m not sure why people think users get lost by following links, since the back button is one the first features that new users learn about. In fact, I read on one of the web authoring usenet groups I frequent that one participant who actually did user testing found that new windows are more likely to confuse users. [let me see if I can find that post …. ah, I believe this is it.]

    I was also going to point out that the “target” attribute is deprecated for strict doctypes, but then I noticed you were using a loose doctype anyway.


  65. Melusine

    I like links automatically opening new windows. In fact, I’m quite happy to have a bunch of windows open via a series of links through sites. It makes it easier not to lose the original site. (And for the terminally lazy it’s one less click!) I can understand that some people would prefer to choose, though.

    I have Firefox 1.05.04 installed, but I don’t like it that much; it loads pictures slower than IE and the fonts (such as the ones here on the sidebar) are all wacked out and HUGE. Too, when I opened this page with FF, half of it stayed blue for 20 seconds. I don’t see the difference in the tabs from windows–both ways are just as easy for me to use. I’ve heard others say they prefer IE over FF and don’t see the big deal with FF. I keep trying it every once in a while, but it’s just not winning me over yet. )-8~

  66. External Link = New Window/Tab – that’s that law…. 😉

    To anyone complaining about not being able to “make my own decision.” Everyone writing a web page has made several decisions for you already (what color the background is, the color of the text, the size and face of the font, yadda yadda, and including what the content of the page is). One more decision concerning new windows versus same windows…. big deal.

    Plus I do the same on my pages (just not as consistently 😛 )


  67. I have never noticed this link behaviour on your site, since I’m another Firefox user, with plugins to control every aspect of tabbed browsing / new windows for me.

    One point I didn’t see made, but that my textbooks at school always made sure to point out (hopefully it’s becoming less and less applicable) is that some people who are not very familiar with computers do not, in fact, understand how to switch windows, or even what a window is. These sorts of people will become confused if your site doesn’t open links in the window they are already looking at. This was hinted at in the article you linked to — the back button is “broken”, and they can’t find your site again. But I don’t know if those are the kind of readers you’re necessarily looking for anyway…

  68. I learned long ago the extreme usefulness of the shift+ctrl+click (in Opera) to open links in new, background, windows. For many web sites, I want to look at a number of links, but don’t want to lose my current place. I’ll read the current site, opening new windows in the background, then read through the additional windows when I’m done.

    I’ve seen some sites that try to mark links with an icon that indicates new window or current window opening. Might be nice if some sort of standard emerged for that, or maybe the browser could mark links that open new windows. Not that I’d have any use for that; Old dog, new trick…

    The real problem is not the number of open windows, it’s not having time to read everything I open.

  69. BMurray

    I’m here to read the text. I can control where my links open if I care. If you keep writing things I want to read, I’ll be here.

  70. Kaptain K

    I use tabs in Netscape. That way, no matter how far I follow a topic, all it takes is one click to get back here. My vote is to leave it the way it is.

  71. Sriram

    Do ppl still use ie 6..tabbed browsin is the soln…this is ur blog and its ur wish…

  72. Your external links open new windows? That’s news to me. Count me among those who right-click a link and let it load in another tab while I continue reading your site.

    Then again, you gotta find out what the behavior is for people who are reading you in their feedreaders. target=”whatever” may or may not work in feedreaders, I don’t know.

  73. Your external links open new windows? That’s news to me. Count me among those who right-click a link and let it load in another tab while I continue reading your site.

    Then again, you gotta find out what the behavior is for people who are reading you in their feedreaders. target = “whatever” may or may not work in feedreaders, I don’t know.

  74. Sue Mitchell

    What’s. The. Problem? Is using the ‘back’ button such a major hardship? Are we getting *so* lazy?

    And when you want to leave, there’s always the [X] button.

    The only difficulty I have with the site is that the ‘view – text size – largest’ doesn’t work. :-(

  75. BA: Here is the opinion of a non blogger, i.e. usability expert Jakob Nielsen: . The article is titled “Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design”. See section 9 “Opening New Browser Windows”. I personally prefer sites that don’t open new windows for links, but I can live with that.

  76. New window links are EVIL! I use Firefox and most of the time i open links in new tabs. Sometimes, though, I want to follow a link in the current tab and when that link opens a new window I usually want to punch the author of that page in the face. I have to close that window again, open the link in a new tab and close the old tab. Sucks!

    Browsers have functions for opening links in new tabs or new windows. Leave it to the use to make that decision!

  77. ioresult

    I like new windows for external sites. You could also warn the reader that it will do so by using some method like alt=”this will open in a new window” or something. And if I don’t want to open in a new window, I just drag the link into the address bar, and I’m guaranteed it will open in the same window!

  78. Jeff

    Either way, it makes no difference to me.

  79. Adam Soltan

    Unasked for windows are annoying, IMHO. As someone who’s been hacking for nearly a quarter century I believe I know what I am talking about when I say that the users/surfers shouldn’t be getting things they don’t ask for. It’s bad manners… I think. Annoying windows policies are not enough, however, to drive *me* away from the BA site.


  80. I view the blog through the email anyway, so it makes no difference to me. But in general = and in my own practice – I do it the same way that you do it.

  81. Evolving Squid

    I use firefox and tabs, but I agree with the voices that say that opening new windows is annoying. But it’s only an annoyance – not the end of the world, and if the content is good in that open window, I don’t get bent out of shape about it.

    Back when I was an IE user, I used to open everything in new windows manually. As someone above said, it’s not rocket science to open a new window, so why not leave the user the choice?

    Now, if you want to infuriate your users, open in frames.

  82. Jokermage

    New windows are annoying. Luckily I have a Firefox extension that forces new windows into new tabs. So I never notice.

  83. GDWarf

    I, like so many here, use Firefox, this means that I always middle-click links, it’s really the best of both worlds.

    Anyways, when I’m using IE I can never decide on that issue, both ways annoy me, to be honest. If it opens in a new window then I’ve got more annoying screen clutter and the back button doesn’t work if it’s just a one-page thing. If it opens in the same window and it’s more then one page, I have to hit the back button multiple times. It’s really a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ problem.

  84. Berlie

    My vote is keep it the way you have it. I like it that your website stays open even if I click on a link to another page. After all, I came to your site to find out what was going on.

    By the way, I use Firefox, with Ubuntu Linux, at home and IE at work. Firefox is by far a better browser.

  85. icemith

    Safaris I know, I prefer to have the link open in a new window. When I’m sufficiently bored with that I know I just have to close that window by hitting the little red jujube and I’m back in BA. And I have been frustrated a couple of times by accidently hitting the close button instead of the back button – they are very close in Safari. Losing a keenly worded comment that I had almost finished, by accidently closing the main window, for the want of checking something in another link – a name or a spelling, is quite frustrating, as I have not been able to see how to save it otherwise.

    Oh, for a preview button though. (Yes I know that has nothing to do with the above debate, but seeing I’ve got your ear, might as well mention it, and yes Darrin (Post 34), I have the presentation you see when the BA blog opens up – thought I’d mention that too.


  86. BMurray

    You know a society is wealthy enough when its members care this much about so little.

  87. Leyalic

    I’ll add my own two cents…

    Personally, I like the way it’s set up now. I like that I can click a link and have it open in a seperate window. This allows me to click your link and have it open all the while reading the rest of your blog. Of course, dual monitor displays help this a lot since the new windows go onto my other screen.

    I also use Firefox but I actually hate the tabs. I hate having what I’m reading covered up by something else. Yay dual screens I guess…


  88. dhtroy

    I’m going to add my wife’s comments to this: “I hate it when a link hijacks my current browser, because sometimes when it takes me to a new site, the Back button no longer works. I wish they’d just open in a new window”.

    As for me, I use FF, so I honestly do not care, but the wife has a good point.

    That’s her 1 cent and my 1 cent.

    Make cents? (ha ha)

  89. William Roeder

    There are two types of links, 1) Those giving additional information – after reading you’ll want to return to the orginial materal. 2) Links for continued reading – normally don’t want to return. Note the types are independent of internal vs external. It depends mostly on what the user is looking for, therefor I (shift click to open a new tab) open a new window if I know that I want to return. Therefor I prefer very few new window links.

    What I also don’t like are links that forward to the same page further down. I end up having muliple tabs open only to discover that they are all the same page.

    What I do, is Grey links: go to the same page. Red links: go off site. The few new window links such as privacy policy are Green. The rest are normal blue.

  90. Gary Ansorge

    Definetly new windows. I like to return to my old window with a single click.

    Gary 7

  91. Ignore the advice and the threat of losing readers; Kevin’s LexBlog rant fails to support itself. Its only evidence is for PORTALS–websites whose goal is solely to point the way to what the user is looking for–then he goes on to apply that paradigm to blogs, which isn’t the same beast. Many times a blog will link to several images or other sites just in passing; e.g., it discusses rabbit subspecies while popping up pictures of the bunnies. One does not want to entirely leave the blog just to view a picture, then go back and reload the page.

    I create web pages for a living. I use several browsers, on a Mac. I do not use tabs. I am happy to pop new windows; in fact I prefer it, because I can pop back to the original window and continue reading while the new page is loading, kill the new window immediately if it fails to load, and don’t have to interrupt my browser experience in the case the originating site does not cache (say, if it generates every page dynamically).

    Please keep with your current, correct practice. Internal links stay internal. External links == new windows.

  92. Frank Sullivan

    That blog entry is bull. I hate, hate, hate links to outside websites that don’t open in a new window. In fact, I’ve gotten used to “right click, open in new tab” every time I click on such a link now, just on the off chance that the link might open in the same window.

  93. Calli Arcale

    It occurs to me that while I find the external-links-open-in-new-windows behavior mildly annoying, the only really serious annoyances for me are these:

    1) All links (including internal ones) open in a new window.
    2) Seemingly random links open in a new window, regardless of source.
    3) Some or all links open in a new window, but it’s always the same one.

    #3 is the most annoying to me. Drives me batty when a browser not only forces a new window to open, but gives it a name so it can direct all future links to that same window, making it difficult to open more than one link at a time. I’ve never understood the justification for it either. I realize some users truly don’t understand how to click the little red circle/little x/whatever to close the window. But it’s just aggravating.

    Still doesn’t drive me from sites, though, unless it’s on just the right links to seriously impair my use of the site and there’s some alternative source for the same content.

  94. Don

    Yep. Firefox, “Open in New Tab”. Doesn’t matter if you have your link opening in a new window.

  95. Kevin

    wow that hit a nerve!

    anyway you care to do it Phil…. it really doesn’t matter….

  96. Karl Withakay

    I have always preferred to be in control of my own web browsing experience (It’s the main reason I hate Flash). If I want a link to open in a new window/tab , I’ll right click on it and chose open in new window or open in new tab (I use Firefox). If I want the link to open in my current window/tab , I’ll just click on it.

  97. Scott

    The web publishing side of this whole thing:

    Everybody may prefer links to open in the same window, but the truth of the matter is that:

    When leaving the site, it *should* open in a new window just so that you know you’re entering another webiste/a non-affiliated site. This is similar to citing a source–only the source is embedded within the original article.

    So, I propose a compromise: all hyperlinks on text can target the current window. Next to those hyperlinks, to indicate they are external sites, you can place an icon on it (something along the lines of the one used in Wikipedia for the similar practice) which also has the link, but when clicked upon opens the link in a new window. Voila. Problem solved. We all go home happy. (Yes, I know, in the real world some people probably won’t even be happy with this for some silly reason or other.)

  98. John

    I read your blog daily via RSS, but have never posted a comment. And I, uh, haven’t read all of the 97 comments before this one. Whenever I click a link and it opens in a new window I immediately kill it. Then I go back and click the link such that it opens in a new tab (firefox). To me it’s an issue of control. I can open a link however I damn well please (new window, new tab, same window). So I prefer “webmasters” just not mess with it. Don’t be tricky. Don’t try to help me. Just link the dang text and let me do as I please. The counter argument, of course, is that since I have this control the page author can do as they damn well please. And thus we have a flame war based on subjective personal preference (is there any other kind?).

  99. CS

    I also prefer to make my own decision on a new tab/window or keep the same tab. If I just want a quick look at the link, keep the same tab and use the back button. If it might be a long look or something I will finish reading later, use a new tab/window. What I find annoying is that I constantly have a dozen or more tabs open: when a link opens a new tab/window, it takes a lot more effort to get back to the original tab than had I been able to use the back button.

    As pointed out somewhere above, why not just allow the reader to select the default behavior with a checkbox? Something like:

  100. TheBlackCat

    I may have Firefox now, but even when I had Internet Explorer I still preferred it when external links open in a new window (I tended to do it myself by hand just to be on the safe side). I could easily have 20 or more windows open (although I think IE usually crashed when I go upt to around 40).

  101. Vega Altair

    I personally don’t like a link opening up a new window. I generally have a large number of them open at one time and I find that adding one that I didn’t deliberately generate is somewhat frustrating

  102. captain swoop

    External; in a new window yup.

  103. Z. Johnson

    External in new window (or tab) is the way to go. If, while reading an article, I come across an interesting link, I usually open up a new tab (using firefox) and finish reading the article befor exploring the new links.

  104. L Fuller

    As a Web designer, I opt for the new window (and/or tab) method… but then I work in marketing for a telecom and don’t want to lose the viewers that I work so hard to bring to our site. I don’t find this a problem with a site like Bad Astronomy that isn’t trying to attract paying customers, especially since I have it bookmarked and visit it a couple of times a day anyway. :^D

  105. In case you’re still keeping track, I hate links that open in a new window. I know how to use a browser, and I know how to make an ordinary link open in the same window, in a new window, or a new tab. And I like having control over the process.


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