Links analysis algorithms on the web take the incoming links to a webpage as a sign of its popularity. Given this, can we consider web hyperlinks, in aggregate, as a kind of public good? I am curious if anyone has looked at it from this perspective.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you speaking more about a) the invention as a concept, or b) the application such as harvesting such data, or c) some other conceptualization? $\endgroup$
    – nathanwww
    Apr 30, 2018 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @nathanwww: I'm afraid I don't understand your question. I would just like to know if hyperlinks on the web constitute a public good. $\endgroup$
    – Joebevo
    May 1, 2018 at 2:39

1 Answer 1


In the Samuelson's definition of public good, the good must be non-excludable and non-rivalrous.

Hyperlinks (if public and pointing to public pages) are non-excludable, and --to the condition of not overloading the hosted content-- non-rivalrous.

The frequency of publication (and other criterions) of hyperlinks pointing to specific pages/domain, is used by ranking algorithms as a proxy of relevance for the users.

Hyperlinks through ranking algorithms create a positive externality (i.e. access to more relevant web-pages). To the extent that the access to the result of those ranking algorithms is not excludable (you don't need to log in the use google, duckduckgo, etc), you can say that the result of this positive externality is a public good.


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