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Interwiki vs. External link

This question or concern has been resolved.

Should this template not open a new window like other external links do? That would be my recommendation anyway. Thomas Lerman 15:03, 13 August 2009 (UTC)

Technically the template produces an InterWiki link and so it does not open the link in a new window. --Steve 16:00, 13 August 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, I realize that it creates a link to another Wiki, but my opinion recommendation still holds. If I am doing research and wanted to check out another Wiki, I would not want to leave the Research Wiki site. I am curious about other people's feelings on this. If after discussion it stays the way it is, I will learn to not use it or right-mouse click to open in a new window. Thomas Lerman 16:07, 13 August 2009 (UTC) P.S. It seems that we want to keep people on the site, not drive them away . . . no matter if it is an interwiki link or not. Thomas Lerman 18:27, 1 September 2009 (UTC)
I use right-mouse so often, it is a habit-forming for me now. Dsammy 20:10, 29 September 2009 (UTC)
I remembered something... the off page link does NOT always work the way Thomas wanted. It stayed in the same screen rather than open up in in new window. Dsammy 20:26, 29 September 2009 (UTC)
I am not positive what you mean by "off page link". But if you mean that a link that is defined to open another window does not always do that, I have never seen that and would like to see it (other than if a browser has that kind of setting). Password 05:12, 30 September 2009 (UTC)
The community reached verbal consensus on this issue long before we had a MOS page. In fact, I believe it was back when we were still in Plone. The decision was for all links that lead outside FamilySearch to spawn a new window. I don't mind us having the discussion again, but until that initial decision is overturned, all external links (including those from templates) need to spawn a new window. It is confusing to users if we have some external links spawn a new window and others use the current window. In the meantime, the MOS needs to reflect this rule. Ritcheymt 19:43, 6 October 2009 (UTC)
I made changes to the template to comply with the links policy, but it was then pointed out that links to articles with spaces in the title were broken. These could be handled by use of the #replace function, therefore I have reverted the changes until the StringFunctions are installed. --Steve 05:43, 14 October 2009 (UTC)

Case against spawning new windows for external links

This latest discussion started when I used the InterWiki feature to create this template that can be used to link to articles in Wikipedia. I feel that it has opened up the a bigger discussion about all external links in the wiki, which currently spawn new windows/tabs. I think this is a mistake. It used to be common practise, but for the past 10 years has been seen as poor design and now violates Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Opening up new browser windows is like a vacuum cleaner sales person who starts a visit by emptying an ash tray on the customer's carpet. Don't pollute my screen with any more windows, thanks (particularly since current operating systems have miserable window management). If I want a new window, I will open it myself! Designers open new browser windows on the theory that it keeps users on their site. But even disregarding the user-hostile message implied in taking over the user's machine, the strategy is self-defeating since it disables the Back button which is the normal way users return to previous sites. Users often don't notice that a new window has opened, especially if they are using a small monitor where the windows are maximized to fill up the screen. So a user who tries to return to the origin will be confused by a grayed out Back button. --Jakob Nielsen, The Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 1999, No 2. Opening New Browser Windows
If your user wants to open the link in a new window, he or she can do so quite easily with most browsers; there is no need to force the issue. It's about leaving the user the freedom to navigate in the way that works best for him or her. -- Thanasis Kinias, 21 Apr 2002

See also Avoid forcing to open in a new window, John Britsios and Beware of opening links in a new window, Neil Turner --Steve 13:51, 8 October 2009 (UTC)


Almost all of those links, to me, look like personal opinions. A quick search produced other person opinions too, such as Tika Web Development Group where he says:

In fact, any link to an external URL should open a new window. Once they're gone, you risk losing them forever.

To me, this seems like this is from a purely marketing point of view.

Taking a look at the latest Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) that you mentioned, the only mention I found about this is related to "change of context" (such as opening new window) in what can be interpreted as two conflicting statements as follows:

  1. Without user awareness.
  2. Initiated only by user request or a mechanism is available to turn off such changes

I can see that a visual awareness (such as the little icon that is next to external links) to the user could be considered user awareness. I do realize that this would not be acceptable to the visually impaired. One thing that I believe is important, as Michael mentioned, consistency (not in so few words). At this time, the Research Wiki does not distinguish between different types of external links (which interwiki links are external). May I suggest that interwiki links use an icon to indicate that it is an external link, but of the interwiki type? Until there is a distinction and there is a buy-off, I believe the consistent thing to do is to have interwiki links act just like external links.

Just to make sure it is known, I am not against external links opening in the same window. MediaWiki tells the process for "Opening external links in a new window" and then says

Keep in mind that some consider it rude to force new windows on your users.

I would propose the following solution:

  • Give a visual indication of an interwiki type of external link. This may be a very nice solution for me so I can see that this link going to take me out of the Research Wiki so I can decide whether I want to open a new window or not. I realize that one can look at the status bar to look at the link, but have seen the status bar hidden in some Family History Centers (FHCs), etc.
  • Have interwiki links act the same as an external link since that is what was previously decided. If the decision changes, then interwiki links will change automatically as well.
  • To meet the guideline I listed as #2 above, have an option in the user's preference to cause external links to either open in the same window or in a new window. I realize that may be some engineering effort.

Especially if the change to the user's preferences is not an option . . . Maybe a very good way of deciding would be to create a study group of currently non-Wiki and not so "computer literate" genealogists. I would much rather see these type of people (which may be more than 90% of the users) happy than to follow guidelines set by "power users of the Internet". Thomas Lerman 15:59, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

From what I have seen at the FHL, many researchers open new windows all the times and use them all the times on daily basis, they are more saavy nowadays than before and they do know what they are doing. Constantly switching from their favorite family programs (be it PAF, AQ, Legacy, RootsMagic) to Ancestry, WVR, etc is what I am seeing so there should not be any issues about opening into new windows being an issue. dsammy 16:42, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

The path to change

I like the idea of an interwiki link behaving and looking the same as an external link. I don't like external links that have no icon beside them to indicate that they're going outside. I also think it's time we considered having external links open in the same window rather than spawning a new one. It's like Thomas said, though -- it might be wise to test our user base, which truly is an older, less tech-savvy crowd than the Internet technorati (all of us included in that last). Whatever you guys want to do, though, you might want to involve Fran in the conversation because she has been assigned as the wiki lead. If users want a change in functionality, the path is users --> Fran --> Ben Bennett --> engineers. Ritcheymt 19:18, 20 November 2009 (UTC)

I would add that when more people get involved in the Forums by posting requests for enhancements and changes, the more your thoughts and ideas will be heard. Right now, the Forums have a much wider audience than specific pages in the wiki. If Ben or any of our engineers are not "watching" a page, they typically won't know it's been updated with requests for enhancements, etc. -Fran 21:15, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, I am not sure that I am following what you are asking here Fran or more specifically what it has to do with the discussion above. Is this related to the discussion on the interwiki link should be acting like an external link? Actually, I think I may have just figured it out . . . it is related to the last two above sentences concerning getting you involved and the line of command. The forums is a great place to get that information passed around. Putting something on a Talk page does not necessarily get the information to the right people. However, the forums COULD point to a Talk page. Did I figure it out correctly? Thomas_Lerman 21:47, 28 January 2010 (UTC)
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