Denise Howell reported yesterday on a new article from MIT’s Technology Review(for now, you’ll have to subscribe to read the whole article, or pay $4.50 for a single copy) about the concept of backlinking. Trackback, an innovation of web publishing company Movable Type, allows sites to communicate about related resources. Here’s how it works (from the Trackback website):

  1. If Weblogger A posts something he wants Weblogger B to know about, he/she sends a Trackback “ping” (message) to Weblogger B.
  2. Weblogger B can then automatically list all sites that referenced a post on his site, allowing  visitors to his site to read all posts around the Web related to that topic.

Okay, the concept may be a little too “tech-geek” for your taste, but the concept is terrific — this feature allows weblogs to provide links not only to sources for the item they just read, but also to newer material the weblog post inspired.

So how does this relate to legal research? Read Denise’s post and proposal — but the idea is basically this: legal citators work on the same premise. Shepards and KeyCite help researchers track caselaw forward and backward, as the law is developed. Weblog technology could be developed to work the same way on the Internet, assuming appropriate standards are developed.

Obviously this is an idea whose time has not yet come — but imagine if you could log onto the Internet and be able to find everything related to the case or statute you were researching, all in one place — for free (or cheaper, anyway).