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It looks a lot simpler to me. One reason that there's so much confusion in this thread is that many people are using the terms "link" and "hyperlink" interchangeably.
I can complain about the XLink spec as much as anyone, but I really like its definitions. Here are two:
"An XLink link is an explicit relationship between resources or portions of resources." (http://www.w3.org/TR/xlink/#dt-link)
"A hyperlink is a link that is intended primarily for presentation to a human user." (http://www.w3.org/TR/xlink/#dt-hyperlink)
Links, like so many other content relationships, are better off when we can encode them without presentation details. A citation by one court case of another, a foreign key in a database, and a sermon's reference to a passage in the Bible are all explicit relationships between resources. They're links, and ideally they can be stored in such a way that presentation details can be added on later to take best advantage of the chosen presentation medium.
The prefix "hyper" qualifies "link" to describe a specific class of links: those "primarily for presentation to a human user." Hell, it's got the word "presentation" right in there. While I'm all for generic markup, I like XSL-FO too, and I won't call it content markup just because it's XML. I know presentation markup when I see it, and some of it is very useful. Hyperlinks are a way to present linking relationships via an interactive interface. I like what Len said earlier: "Hypertext is a retrograde form of a GUI in which controls have been dropped into content using content as the GUI."
Here's another neat quote, from the second paragraph of Steve DeRose and David Duran's 1994 book "Making Hypermedia Work": "HyTime represents a confluence of two technical fields and the socio-politico-economic standards process. The two technical fields, hypertext/hypermedia and document processing based on declarative markup, have been maturing over the last three decades."
Eight years later, it looks like this confluence itself still has some maturing to do!
Bob DuCharme www.snee.com/bob <bob@
snee.com> "The elements be kind to thee, and make thy
spirits all of comfort!" Anthony and Cleopatra, III ii
(bobdc e-mail address used only for mailing lists)