Definitely some valid points and I think the target attribute is an interesting topic, but I also think you are making some assumptions here and the “retro” arguments are still valid.
- How a _blank link is opened is browser and settings dependant. A behaviour that varies on devices, browsers and systems and we shouldn’t make an assumption on how it will perform, other than what it is intended for … to open the link without leaving the current page because information might be lost.
- If you choose to link to an external website, you shouldn’t assume that the user wants to return to your site. If you feel that the external link is where the user should go, don’t link to it. Social networks are a prime example. A user who makes a choice to click on a Facebook icon wants to visit Facebook to interact with the content. It they want to come back afterwards that should be their choice.