Hyperlinks are points in Web pages through which users may branch out from a central text to other bodies of information. Pages may contain any number of links, allowing a user to easily locate information and seamlessly follow through on research or information. Generally, Internet users may view materials published on the Web, unless affirmative steps are taken to limit access. As a result, Web documents are widely linked together without prior consent from content providers.
Hyperlinking raises questions related to the contents of the linked site. These questions include the liability of the Web site that links to a site containing defamatory material, and whether there is a duty to view the contents of a site before linking to it.
Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) provides a means for linking documents through their graphical elements by using inline images. Inline images are graphics viewable onscreen as part of a Web document's main body, but which originate at a different source from the documents HTML coding. As a consequence, Web site owners may choose to incorporate graphics owned by others into their own sites and surround the images with new content.
Some Web sites consist of a collection of links to other sites. As central repositories of information, these sites, or "metasites", make the Internet easy, efficient and convenient to use. "Frames" are a means of allowing Web site creators to divide their pages into multiple scrollable windows that operate independently of each other. Frames may include text, graphics, or other HTML elements. Frames are often used to create static windows containing elements which a user accessing a Web site always sees, such as title graphics or tables of contents. Site owners can use frames to incorporate whole Web sites produced by others and surround them with their own advertising, logos and promotions.
Frames operate much like picture-in-picture television. They allow a user to view another site's content within a small area of the initial metasite, all without actually having to leave the metasite itself. When frames are used, the URL shown on the browser's computer does not change; the browser's computer continues to display the address of the metasite. Some have claimed that this may confuse casual Internet users who do not understand that they have not yet left the initial metasite, even though they are viewing material that comes from another source entirely.
One of the major concerns resulting from the use of frames technology stems from Internet advertising. An ad that appears on a framed site must co-exist with the ads displayed on the borders of the original metasite. This has an obvious effect on ads that appear on the framed site, because the ad's visual impact will be lessened because of its reduced size and by the clutter created by the framing. Also, the physical locations of the ads on the screen are different when Web pages are framed within another site. For example, an advertiser may have envisioned an advertisement running horizontally all the way across the top of the computer screen. If that site is "framed" within another Web site, the advertiser instead receives a smaller ad running across a much smaller (and usually lower) portion of the browser's screen. If advertisers view these distortions as devaluing their ads, site owners who sell advertising space on their Web sites may lose advertising revenue.