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Why are hyperlinks blue?

February 14th, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments
Windows 3.1 screenshot showing hyperlinks blue.

Last year, Elise Blanchard did some great historical research and discovered that blue hyperlinks replaced black hyperlinks in 1993. They’ve been blue for so long now that the general advice I always hear is to keep them that way. There is powerful societal muscle memory for “blue text is a clickable link.”

BUT WHY?!

On a hot tip, Elise kept digging and published a follow-up and identified the source of blue hyperlinks:

[…] it is Prof. Ben Shneiderman whom we can thank for the modern blue hyperlink.

But it didn’t start on the web. It was more about operating systems in the very early 1990s that started using blue for interactive components and highlighted text.

The decision to make hyperlinks blue in Mosaic, and the reason why we see it happening in Cello at the same time, is that by 1993, blue was becoming the industry standard for interaction for hypertext. It had been eight years since the initial research on blue as a hyperlink color. This data had been shared, presented at conferences, and printed in industry magazines. Hypertext went on to be discussed in multiple forums. Diverse teams’ research came to the same conclusion – color mattered. If it didn’t inspire Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina directly, it inspired those around them and those in their industry.

Because research:

[…] the blue hyperlink was indeed inspired by the research done at the University of Maryland.

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