When Tim Berners-Lee developed his idea to make the Web, color monitors had begun to assert themselves for some time. As he explains himself in a FAQ of the World Wide Web consortium, however, he has no idea why blue was used for links, even if he has some theory …
“There is no reason why one should choose a color, such as blue, to indicate the presence of links: it is simply a predefined thing. I think the first browser (which was called WorldWideWeb and I wrote for the NeXT operating system ) used only an underscore to represent a link, since it was a way of emphasizing words that are not used much in documents. Blue came when browsers started using colors: I don’t remember which was the first to use blue. You can change this default setting in most browsers, and certainly in HTML documents, and in CSS graphical style sheets.There are many examples of different style sheets that use different colors.
I think that blue is one of the darker colors and therefore complicates the readability of a text. In the early days of the Web I used green whenever I had the opportunity, because it is considered a relaxing color. ”
Berners-Lee thus excludes that the blue of the links had been introduced under his indication, as we sometimes read in some articles and books on the history of the Internet. The Web of the beginning was spartan and almost entirely textual: the connections were slow and there was therefore the need to make light sites, moreover the images in digital format were not yet widespread. Many sites didn’t even have style sheets (CSS), that is, instructions on how their graphics should appear, so it was the browsers that showed the pages based on some default settings. Mosaic is among the main suspects in the affirmation of the blue links, the first program to browse online to become popular among users and push the spread of the Web in its very first forms: the default color used by the browser for links not yet visited was blue, purple for those already seen.
Google has existed for almost 18 years and has always been blue on its results page, a color we have all learned to associate with the words you can click on. The Web has changed in the meantime, the criteria for its graphics have evolved and adapted to technological changes, abandoning some canons. The unwritten rule of showing underlined links when passing the mouse pointer over has remained and continues to be respected on most sites, while blue has become less common and replaced by other colors, established through CSS. Here in the Post, for example, the classic blue has long been replaced with the blue of the header in the pages of individual articles, while in the homepage all the links are shown in black.
Google has not yet communicated anything official about the experiment in its results pages, only confirming that it is often working to experiment with alternative solutions to its graphics. The tests of these days do not involve instead the indication of the addresses (URL) below the links, which continue to be green, the color of the first historic logo of the Web and the one preferred by Tim Berners-Lee.