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Is Link Trading Altruistic
|Before there were
search engines and directories people traversed from site
to site online via "surfing" or following the
links they found on the webpages they happened to stumble
upon. Even if all the Internet's search engines and
portals shut down tomorrow the internet would survive and
the basis of links and surfing from site to site would
remain. All of the power and prestige and importance of
links stems from the basic altruism of the process. Sure
there are link farms and reciprocal link exchange sites
that serve no purpose of altruism to some but without the
value of links that is inherant search engines would not
value these links and they would have no purpose to
Even when looking at strict reciprocal link exchange arrangements a principle of altruism exists. Its a one to one exchange in many instances. With in theory neither party gaining more than the other. To some that is commercial exchange plain and simple; to me its the basis of altruism. To trade something of value; traffic and advertising potential; via link exchanges without tracking and without exchangning money is an agreement of trust. Such things seldom exist in the offline world. There are some that run links through scripts to track everything and that place extreme requirements on their link partners but for the majority of instances link trading is a thing based on trust more than mere interests of commercialism.
Links relating to a given topic that are relevant and of quality are the ones a "surfer" pays the most attention too. In many instances a site that began creating a link resource page to provide extra resources for its visitors ends up with the links transforming themselves into the most valued part of the site. On almost any given topic there are other sites out there. Even if someone creates the greatest single resource on a given topic the combined value of all other sites on this topic might still provide greater value than a single site ever could alone. That greater value outside of what one person can create is the basis of link trading in its purest form that the end web user embraces every day. Inspite of the internet's commercial aspects; the Ebay's; the Google's, the Amazon.com's and the like, the internet still is largely a medium of altruism.
In most topic areas online a hub site develops or a series of such sites develop over time. Such sites serve as a repository of links to some of the "best" resources on a given topic. Such links are often included by merit not based on any exchange of any sort. Knowledge for knowledge sake and free promotion of the sites that deserve to be seen is altruistic. Often a way to monetize such altruism can be found via advertising, paid content, or other means. A Site linking to the sites it believes are best for a given topic is the hallmark of the web as a whole. Rather such sites list links freely or require a link themselves does not detract from the heart of the linking process online.
Yahoo began as a repository for the best links. Later the Open Directory Project and Looksmart applied the same principles. Even today search engines use the value of quality links based on principles of altrusim more or less to determine which sites rank well and for which keywords. Without altruism in the choice of to link or not link to a given site, the web as a whole would be vastly diminished and reduced to a collection of formula based search engine optimizers, and a hit and miss approach to finding quality.