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Just came across this annoyance reading an article at time.com. Unfortunately, this was not the first time I experience this, and I have a strong feeling it won't be the last.

Leaving aside discussions on whether this is horrible or not (hint: it often is), is there an actual reasoning why some websites break middle click, Ctrl + click, and otherwise attempts to open links in new tabs?

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It's unlikely that there's intentional malice. There are times when "new tab" functionality is intentionally violated, usually because the website is written as a "single page application" (SPA). SPAs tend to load resources via JavaScript, but competent programmers will include a fallback URL so the page loads in a new tab or window correctly.

Whenever you find a site that doesn't behave this way, it's usually because the developers were either too inexperienced, too rushed, or too underpaid. As an example, I don't know what happened to Time's website, but it has 20 errors just to load the page. That's unacceptable by most normal standards, but it's clear that Time hasn't put the resources necessary in to their online presence.

As a designer, there's not much to do here. Just design the best UI you can. If you're in QA, and you find that "Open in new tab" is broken, open a defect and send that back to the developers. And, of course, if you're a developer, test your own work before you send it to your QA, because a publicly broken website is a reflection on how much you care about your job.

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    Good point. Didn't think of this, even though I remember working on a client webapp which didn't work reliably if user had more than one tab open. – Marc.2377 Apr 14 '18 at 5:18

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