When is a an <a> anchor tag not really an anchor tag... when it doesn't have a href attribute.
I was reading this article on Cnet and I started going through the list on the right of the page - "This Week's Must Reads" (see image)
Now normally, when I want to read articles, I open them in separate tabs so I can look at them after I finish the current tab. Now in this case the "Open In New Tab" option wasn't opening up in Chrome. So I call on "Inspect Element" option and I get this:
<a class="title" data-goto="5657a735-cbf6-40b4-8453-94cb94630900" data-url="/news/for-gorilla-glass-testers-life-is-a-daily-grind-and-scratch-and-drop/" data-s-object-id="TOC.2">
<div class="hed">For Gorilla Glass testers, life is a daily grind (and scratch and drop...)</div>
The link probably only works after a click event. But what's the purpose of this?
Now admittedly, I've been guilty of doing something similar last year, for SEO purposes. There were links on the website of my company that they wanted to de-prioritise as they wanted the main content links getting crawled first. So I did exactly the same technique - put the URL in a data attribute. I event reversed it, so that crawlers woudln't recognise the attribute as a URL and try to crawl it. But the links I did that on were only links to FAQ and generic help. People wouldn't normally go to them anyway. But this..
A list of most read articles on a news site is arguably on the same level of importance as the main article, as it leads people to consume more content on the site. So why would they make things a little more difficult for us tab-users by removing the href attribute?