A smart hypermedia system that acquires user characteristics either directly or inferentially. Simple associative networks serve to model user profiles, including relationships between user goals and the hypermedia information nodes. Hypermedia links to other nodes are recommended by ranking a link list in an order that depends on one or more user profiles containing information relating to users' goals and interests. Users can teach the system directly by rearranging the order of suggested links on the list. The system can also learn indirectly by observing how long and in what sequence the user views each hypermedia information node. User profiles can be combined to form group profiles and may be dynamically and continuously updated to form an adaptive system profile. The two system learning modes may be simultaneous or disjoint.