The links of O’Reilly

This morning’s Observer column.

LIKE MANY people in his business, the technology publisher Tim O’Reilly is a heavy user of the Twitter microblogging service. He also has a Facebook account. To save effort, he has arranged things so that his Twitter posts are automatically forwarded to Facebook where they are transformed into ‘status updates’.

So far, so good; many of us do the same. But O’Reilly is a proper techie, which means many of his tweets are links to web pages containing interesting or useful information he has come upon in his daily browsing. One day recently, a friend of his noticed that something strange was happening to those links: when they left Twitter they were clickable links, but when they arrived in Facebook they were just plain text. In other words, they were no longer clickable. To follow them one had to copy and paste them into a browser window.

This led to a brief outbreak of conspiracy theorising…