The 'link'-Element in (X)HTML

In the beginning this site was just a quick compilation of links that I found upon the topic. AFAIK now this has become the complete list of public documents of relevance for the use of the <link rel="..."> tag for navigation.
'link' is also used for connecting external stylesheets and (bookmark) icons. Maybe I will include that stuff later.

For German readers:
Es gibt auch eine deutsche Version dieses Dokuments.


HTML Specifications

Modularization of XHTML - XHTML Abstract Modules - 5.19. Link Module
XHTML 1.1 refers to a special module to define the 'link'-Element in an own DTD. The LinkTypes are a data type on their own.
User's Guide to ISO/IEC 15445:2000(E) ISO-HTML - 13.20 The LINK element type—Interdocument relations
HTML 4.01 Specification - 6.12 Link types
HTML 4.01 Specification - 12.3 Document relationships: the LINK element
HTML 4.01 Specification - 21 Document Type Definition - LinkTypes
HTML 3.2 Reference Specification - The HEAD element - LINK
Hypertext Markup Language - 2.0 - Document Structure - Link: LINK
Hypertext Links in HTML - IETF - INTERNET DRAFT
(December 1995) expired long ago. Anyway it was discussed a lot and is even cited in the DTD for HTML 3.2)

References, Tutorials, Discussion

Navigating the WWW - The Link-Element
this article shows how systematical use of the 'link' element might improve web navigation - if browser support for it where better... Best introduction for web-autors I know!
W3C: Use <link>s in your document
One of the 17 most important Quality Tips for Webmasters.
WDG: LINK - Document Relationship
this is a complete, nevertheless well-understandable explanation of the HTML 4 specification (including additional links to other sources).
SELFHTML: HTML/XHTML / HTML-Kopfdaten / Logische Beziehungen
SelfHTML is a well known tutorial in German language.
LINK - Site structure
from the WDG's HTML 3.2 reference
LINK - relationships with other documents
from Learning HTML 3.2 by Examples by Jukka Korpela
Index DOT Html: LINK
part of Brian Wilson's THE Advanced HTML Resource
Alphabetical Index of Link Types
Fantasai collected and gathered all occurences of Link Type Definitions in released specs and old working drafts. Seems to be rather complete.
SGML and HTML Explained - Chapter 13
this is HTML explained from the SGML view
LINK Element | LINK Object
part of the msdn online Web Workshop.
Data hidden in attributes
Jukka Korpela discusses the implications of 'LINK' as an empty element in Empty elements in SGML, HTML, XML, and XHTML.
Proposals to extend/restrict >LINK<
nowadays rather historical, but gives some insight to what the HTML developers intended the LINK element to mean (discussion from summer 1995)

Browser Support

Matthias Gutfeldt wrote another web page on the topic: Browsers with LINK support.


After years without new implementations the independent Mac browser iCab brang the link element back to our attention. Thus it became an example for developing the feature in Mozilla an Opera.

iCab Homepage
iCab FAQ
provides the full list of values that are assigned to the icons in in iCab's Standard Links toolbar
Navigating the WWW - The Link-Element
iCab is the outstanding example in this general introduction.
iCab: New Browser With Structural Navigation
Jakob Nielsen enthusiasticly promotes for the new navigation capabilities iCab provides (some points he criticizes have been improved in later releases).
iCab screenshot of Ian Hickson's test page.


On 2001-10-02 the link toolbar landed in Mozilla's code tree. Since that day all nightly builds are able to provide site navigation by an additional toolbar - if the site provides the needed information by the link element.

Currently (2001-11-14) not all technical and design problems are solved but work is done on them. There may be changes in the design, but the main funcionality will consist.

The first release for a broader audience was milestone Mozilla 0.9.5. If the worst known bugs get fixed in time Netscape is supposed to integrate the link toolbar starting with version 6.3 of their browser. It is still an open question (although extremely important for wide acceptance) if they will enable it by default.

For those who don't have access to a current version of Mozilla here is a screenshot.

The biggest part of the allmost three year lasting developement is documented in bugzilla,'s bug-tracking system. Design principles and first implementation details where worked out in Bug 2800 - No UI for HTML2 "LINK" element and Bug 87428 - No UI HTML <link> element. Some of the discussions are worth reading even if you are not interested in Mozilla.

Since the link toolbar became an official part of Mozilla dozends of improvements have been suggested. Get a list in Bug 103053 - Link Toolbar Improvements Tracking!

Some more interesting documents from the pre-implementation phase:

Link Toolbar and <LINK> in Mozilla
Two pages about early implementations.
Tim Hill
Ian Hickson:
Link - 1 | Link - 2 - two test sites
AMI - 'Alternative Menu Initiative' (2000-08-24)


The Mac team were the first to support link navigation at Opera's (since Version 5.0b4 for MacOS).

By now the feature has reched the main core of the source and each current version offers a navigatin tollbar, when needed. Contrary to other implementations it reacts only to a fixed set of keywordes and ignores the rest.

Opera screenshot
more current screenshot by Matthias Gutfeld


Lynx Home Page
Lynx source code
I have not found any public documentation that explains which values for <link rel="..."> this browser supports. But Alan J. Flavell explained in a ciwah posting how you can easily look this up in the program's sources on your own:

Go to and search for the first appearance of HTML_LINK_REL

Scroll down a couple of screens and you'll find a list of supported values, with a few lines of comment explaining why.

Lynx Screenshot


Development of this browser ended after the release of version 1.2 in 1996.

This Browser still works well on Windows systems. Because of new extensions to the http protocol you need to use a proxy server with it for most current websites.

mirror of the homepage (the original site is down)
UdiWWW - Stroud's CWSApps
comments and download area
LEO - Link Everything Online
this page contains all versions that have been released
Experiences with UdiWWW
a user's comments
UdiWWW screenshot

NCSA Win Mosaic 3

The Mosaic Project ended in january, 1997.

This Browser still works well on Windows systems. Because of new extensions to the http protocol you need to use a proxy server with it for most current websites.

NCSA Windows Mosaic Home Page
The Link Tag - Mosaic 3.0 only
from HTML Writer's Guide and Mosaic Specification
Mosaic screenshot


This extension to the editor emacs makes it act as a full-featured webbrowser. It offers a menu item "Navigate" and keybord shortcuts for REL="prev" and REL="next".

emacs-w3 Homepage
emacs-w3 screenshot
thanks to Toby Speight for sending it, using one of his own sites for an example!
emacs-w3 screenshot of this site

CAB (for Atari)

Description and a screenshot on Matthias Gutfeldt's page: Browsers with LINK support


I have been told that this browser/web-editor combination uses Link for navigation. I haven't done any testing yet.

AOLpress Homepage
screenshot at Matthias Gutfeldt's


Internet Explorer

News in 2004: Users of M$-Windows & Internet Explorer can update their Browser to understand a bit more of HTML:

<LINK> Navigation Bar for Internet Explorer

Netscape 7, Mozilla Firefox etc.

Some Browsers based upon the Mozilla project lack the link toolbar. Given Mozilla's modularity you can install it on your own:

Install the Link Toolbar


Some people try to use JavaScript and the DOM to read the attribute values of 'rel' and 'rev' in the 'link'-element and make them accessible to the user.

A Script to show the Link-Elements' content inside the content area of a website (New in (2004-03-30)
Stefan Born deals with enhancing the user experience upon semantically rich HTML by JavaScript. One of his projects is a script that parses the link-elements ans shows them with the content of the site.
My comment: It gives link-naviigation to the gaming web authors again. No more standard interface for the lost users. OTOH dealing whith that stuff doesn't harm anybody and maybe it helps to evangelise for better HTML and the use of link navigation.
The other links in this category may be obsolete in 2004. They remain for completeness.
Jim Ley posted a simple script in the newsgroup
javascript:LE=document.getElementsByTagName('LINK'); Str='<UL>'; for(i=0;i<LE.length;i++) Str+='<LI><A href="'+LE[i].href+'">'+LE[i].rel+'</A>'; document.body.innerHTML=Str+document.body.innerHTML; void 0;
(execute the script)
Adding features to Internet Explorer
Jim Ley also developed a solution to add link navigation as a new toolbar in Internet Explorer (Windows) using an Active X controll.
MS Web Accessories for IE5
Alan Flavell proposes to use Microsoft's IE5Tools for the same purpose.
Programming the Link Element
another idea is published by "The SiteExperts.Community" in their book Inside Dynamic HTML - Microsoft Programmers Series


Please feel free to contact me with critics, additional information and more links!

This site was originally written in the end of 2000. Latest changes: 2004-03-30 --> html --> link | private Homepage | e-mail