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Hypertext Creator: Structure of the Web 'Completely Wrong' 357

Posted by Soulskill
from the then-just-build-a-new-one dept.
angry tapir writes "The creator of hypertext has criticized the design of the World Wide Web, saying that Tim Berners-Lee's creation is 'completely wrong,' and that Windows, Macintosh and Linux have 'exactly the same' approach to computing. Ted Nelson, founder of first hypertext project, Project Xanadu, went on to say, 'It is a strange, distorted, peculiar and difficult limited system... the browser is built around invisible links — you can see something to click on but you’ve got nowhere else to go.'"
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Hypertext Creator: Structure of the Web 'Completely Wrong'

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  • Smokin' (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'll have some of whatever he's been smoking.

    • Re:Smokin' (Score:5, Insightful)

      by xaxa (988988) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:10AM (#35828202)

      I think what he's suggesting is this:

      Many documents are composed of parts of other documents. If I write an essay I might quote from source texts, scientific papers, other people's work on the subject, interviews I've conducted, etc, and I'll add my own ideas around this. At the moment, I duplicate (retype) any source material and provide a link to it. The material I've linked to doesn't automatically link back. Instead, I could make a link using his system which includes the text from the version of the document I look at, and provides a two-way link.

      It's a nice idea, but unless you can make it easy to create documents with all these links (and ensure they don't need any maintenance) I don't see how it would catch on.

      Wikipedia's software is close in some respects -- you can include pages (but not, AFAIIA, selected bits of pages) in other pages. There aren't links in the UI, but it would be trivial to add them.

      • At the moment, I duplicate (retype) any source material and provide a link to it.

        And that is how it should be. If the cited text changes, you do not want your text, which refers to the old version, to suddenly apparently refer to the new version.

        For example, say that Random Person writes on his web page "XY is a great man." Then you write on your web page "Random Person says: "XY is a great man." I'm inclined to agree." Now Random Person decides to change its mind and replaces that text with "XY is a comple

        • Re:Smokin' (Score:4, Informative)

          by xaxa (988988) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:39AM (#35828516)

          At the moment, I duplicate (retype) any source material and provide a link to it.

          And that is how it should be. If the cited text changes, you do not want your text, which refers to the old version, to suddenly apparently refer to the new version.

          Continue reading what I wrote:

          I could make a link using his system which includes the text from the version of the document I look at

          (Alternatively, I might choose to link to the latest version.)

          • by arose (644256)
            Assuming they host an older version. Hell, assuming they are up.
            • by RockDoctor (15477)

              Assuming they host an older version.

              That raises interesting questions of how you automatically keep your documents up to date so that if you express an opinion on a topic at one time, and later change your opinion on that topic, then your previous expressions of opinions on that topic don't get changed, but do receive annotation to point to the changed opinion. So you need to have some agreed (universally agreed?, consensus?, disputed consensus?) way of describing "topics" (is this what the "semantic web"

      • Re:Smokin' (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ByteSlicer (735276) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:32AM (#35828416)
        I think the bigger problem with his system is that it would only work if all the source material was kept on the same server. Or at least if there was a common document provider to serve it.

        The way the web works today doesn't allow this. Sure, you could fetch some text part from a remote server somewhere, but what if that site goes down? Or what if your document contains 100 snippets from 100 servers? Just imagine the load times.

        At least now, when presented with a hyperlink, the user has an expectation that it might be broken, but even then the locally stored text remains accessible.

        And then we didn't even mention copyrights...
      • It's all about DRM (Score:5, Informative)

        by mangu (126918) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:32AM (#35828418)

        If you look at the rules he proposes [wikipedia.org] you'll see that half of them are about restricting access and creating profit venues for the publishers.

        Ted Nelson's view is a web where you have to pay for each page you visit. We have seen too much of this lately

        • by Sentrion (964745) on Friday April 15, 2011 @11:24AM (#35829006)

          This has always been his design from the very beginning, so of course I'm sure he's upset that so much of the web is free, both free as in speech and free as in beer. The founding fathers of the USA had good intentions, but I imagine that many of them would be shocked to see that we allow women, minorities, and non-landowners to vote in our elections. Just because the guy was first to come up with the idea does not mean that the idea cannot be improved upon. And if the end result is better than the founder's initial vision we have no obligation to turn back progress for sentimental reasons. Edison invented the phonograph but was not successful at running his record company. IBM pioneered the PC but they are no longer in that game. Time for Nelson to sit back down in his page of history and let progress move on without him.

        • by Kamiza Ikioi (893310) on Friday April 15, 2011 @12:52PM (#35830232) Homepage

          If you look at the rules he proposes [wikipedia.org] you'll see that half of them are about restricting access and creating profit venues for the publishers.

          Ted Nelson's view is a web where you have to pay for each page you visit. We have seen too much of this lately

          Let's go down the checklist to see how well the WWW complies or has a mechanism TO comply (as in, without forcing someone at knife point... or... Cranky Old Man Cane in Your Chest point):

          Every Xanadu server is uniquely and securely identified. - Not Done
          Every Xanadu server can be operated independently or in a network. - Local, Intranet, Internet, Done
          Every user is uniquely and securely identified. - SSL, Done
          Every user can search, retrieve, create and store documents. - Google, Done
          Every document can consist of any number of parts each of which may be of any data type. - HTML5
          Every document can contain links of any type including virtual copies ("transclusions") to any other document in the system accessible to its owner. - Done
          Links are visible and can be followed from all endpoints. Pingback, Done (unless he means forcing reverse linking... HAHA, screw THAT!)
          Permission to link to a document is explicitly granted by the act of publication. - Done, we just can't convince the RIAA/MPAA of that...
          Every document can contain a royalty mechanism at any desired degree of granularity to ensure payment on any portion accessed, including virtual copies ("transclusions") of all or part of the document. - Done (it says "can" contain "a royalty mechanism", so yes, there is not restrictions on the WWW that force a document to explicitly NOT contain a royalty mechanism)
          Every document is uniquely and securely identified. - URI, Done
          Every document can have secure access controls. - SSL, Done
          Every document can be rapidly searched, stored and retrieved without user knowledge of where it is physically stored. Google (ever really know the drive letter of website pages you search for?), Done
          Every document is automatically moved to physical storage appropriate to its frequency of access from any given location. Amazon EC2, Google, Facebook, Load balancing, blah blah blah, Done
          Every document is automatically stored redundantly to maintain availability even in case of a disaster. Raid1,5, Done (unless he means forced mirroring, again SCREW THAT)
          Every Xanadu service provider can charge their users at any rate they choose for the storage, retrieval and publishing of documents. - Rackspace, Done
          Every transaction is secure and auditable only by the parties to that transaction. Part Done, SSL isn't the norm. But switch to SSL only, and Done.
          The Xanadu client-server communication protocol is an openly published standard. Third-party software development and integration is encouraged. - Done

          Beyond that, there's a few good points left. SSL should be standard as proven by FireSheep/Facebook debacle. Um... More people need to mirror... oh gee, I guess there aren't really any points left, unless you wanna force backlinking. And, with all do respect, he can shove that up his Xanadu! We have enough ads and spam without being force to replicate links back to link farms.

      • Re:Smokin' (Score:4, Interesting)

        by metamatic (202216) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:38AM (#35828498) Homepage Journal

        For an example of a wiki that has better (but still limited) support for transclusion, see Wagn [wagn.org].

        The problem with true hypertext as described by Ted Nelson is that it's a hard problem to solve. Your document editor really needs to be aware of the transclusions, or else you need some really complicated diff algorithm to work out your changes and then apply them properly.

        That said, we probably would have seen a working example, if the Xanadu Project hadn't suffered from project management disasters. (Waterfall model, development in secret, second system effect, name an antipattern and they probably did it.)

        It's also rather sad that his books are hard to obtain and not on the web, so people are generally unaware of how much actual useful work was done and how good the concepts were.

      • I think I follow, but it seems to me that would just encourage more "information overload" than what we've already got now!

        I mean, one of the biggest problems I have with the web is that after using a search engine of choice to hunt down relevant links for a topic I need info on, I wind up being presented with a page or pages that link back to quite a few related (or loosely related) pages - giving me at least 2-3x as much to read through and comprehend than I initially had. When each of THOSE links featu

      • by Bogtha (906264)

        The material I've linked to doesn't automatically link back.

        Actually, the web as it stands already includes this functionality. Trackback, Pingback and referrer sniffing have all been used to provide this functionality for years, not to mention features provided by browser extensions to show relevant content.

      • Back linking is a very attractive idea, until you live with it for a few years, then it starts to develop festering sores because nobody scrubs it hard enough.

        Yeah, maintenance is the problem. It's hard enough to create any document in the first place, harder still to make it harmonious with the extant ecosystem at the time. When you go back to revise something, keeping it harmonious with everything related created before or after it is just more work than most people are willing to do.

        Hell, even spall ch

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        I prefer things I write aren't automatically linked to whatever some other crazy person might write while referencing me, thanks.

        Ted Nelson might agree if his original statements were linked to the mocking he's taking here.

    • by Megane (129182)

      Here's what Ted Nelson has been smoking. [wikipedia.org]

      (I originally posted this to the wrong thread)

    • by blair1q (305137)

      You don't want it. It came from another planet.

      The folder/file thing is an avatar for the simple matter of putting information into collections called documents because they assay a single meme, and then putting those documents into a container called a folder because they're related. The document type and the folder type are different because they need to do different things and contain different things. It's a tree structure with a different tree structure in it. Nothing more. If it didn't exist it wo

  • WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PvtVoid (1252388) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:32AM (#35827816)
    From TFA:

    “[My approach] would be entirely different from today's documents where you look at one page at a time and you can see a ribbon or beam connecting documents together,” he said. “Having to refer to a paragraph and a sentence in an e-mail is just so barbaric when you could just strike it out and make the connection between sentences.”

    Is it just me, or is this just completely incoherent? What the hell is he talking about?

    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:41AM (#35827910) Homepage Journal

      Practically everything we take for granted about the Internet was what I'd call a "WTF proposition" when it was proposed.

      • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Funny)

        by jfengel (409917) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:25AM (#35828332) Homepage Journal

        So... the Timecube guy is going to win?

      • by c (8461)

        True. On the other hand, every single "WTF proposition" that makes up the Internet was actually turned into a proven functional element which people actually use for stuff.

        "Project Xanadu" has never left the lab in spite of many, many years of work. Doesn't mean it won't, ever, but the odds aren't good. It could be the next HTML/HTTP (which, for a brief time, didn't look like it had a chance against gopher). Personally, I think it'll probably be lucky to be the next Lotus Notes (i.e. win enough market share

    • by khr (708262)

      Is it just me, or is this just completely incoherent? What the hell is he talking about?

      It's not just you... I don't understand what he's talking about, either... "Strike it out and make the connection between sentences"? I have no idea what that means...

      Or maybe he means not writing "refer to paragraph 7, sentence 3 of document X" but do something else? But that's style, not a technical limitation, we can do things like that now, copy/paste, link, embed, etc...

      Beats me what he's talking about...

    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by RingDev (879105) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:42AM (#35827926) Homepage Journal

      His concept is effectively a free-form multi-document interface where hyperlinks open into a new window. That description doesn't do it justice though. Think of it like each block of content, each paragraph, each page, each image, is not limited to the context which it is in. You can do, as the quote suggest, strike out some content that is between the two pieces you want, or branch out diagnally.

      Think if it more like a 6 degrees of Kevin Baccon interface, only for every piece of content. Wikipedia is the most obvious example of where it would be useful. Being able to see the content of mid-sentence links with out having to leave the page you are on.

      It's a pretty cool concept, but not big enough (IMO) to displace the current browsing experience.

      -Rick

      • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

        by AmElder (1385909) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:52AM (#35828010) Homepage

        No one can be told what Project Xanadu is. You have to see it for yourself. [youtube.com] I found that video on youtube of Ted Nelson showing off Xanadu a few years ago.

        He might be a mad man, but he's an interesting madman.

        • by delinear (991444)
          Maybe I'm missing something through lack of sound, but it looks like a horrible mess that's not scalable for any relatively complex source material. It's an interesting idea but I'll take new tab + web search over his proposed alternative.
        • Won't work (Score:3, Interesting)

          by KnowThePath (964067)
          Thanks for the link. The idea is brilliant and radical (and for perhaps the first time a youtube video where the comments underneath made sense ;-) ). However structure of paper document he accuses of being limiting reflects how our brains are geared to work. Having all those parallel hypertexts and floating links would be quite distracting - cross linking on wikipedia for example is distracting [xkcd.com] enough on its own. Footnotes, references and asides are what they are for a reason - they are not the actual sub
          • by monoqlith (610041)

            It seems like he's not just trying to change the structure of computer documents - he's also trying to change the structure of human creativity. Because human thought is actually quite linear - it progresses through logical sequences, and attends to one conceptual unit or task at one time. It can switch pretty quickly between different streams of thought, but not without a cognitive cost. So it seems like when we create something we usually wish to do so with as few interruptions as possible, or else we ri

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        You can already do this. right click, select open in new tab/window. or the creator of the app can add a target to the link, or you could write a plugin that appends a target to every link, or the developer can use some fancy ajax to make a popup with an iframe appear with the linked page.

        There are so many ways to do this already, the only hard part is deciding which one you actually want.

      • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:05AM (#35828146)

        In one of Asimov's books he describes doing research/reading in the Imperial Library of Trantor; I think that's what this guy is trying to describe. Links become basically infinite depth background trees on any word or phrase or sentence or paragraph or whatever level you want.

        Which would be amazing, in an academic context. But I'm not sure it would be more useful in a wider context than what we have now.

    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Funny)

      by z_gringo (452163) <.z_gringo. .at. .hotmail.com.> on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:45AM (#35827956)
      He is a genius. We just can't even comprehend what it is he wants to say.

      Actually, I think he is smoking crack. I didn't even get past the headline before it stopped making any sense.
    • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

      by emurphy42 (631808) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:47AM (#35827964) Homepage
      Project Xanadu: Original 17 rules [wikipedia.org]

      6. Every document can contain links of any type including virtual copies ("transclusions") to any other document in the system accessible to its owner.

      Youtube demo [youtube.com] (the actual demo starts at about 3:15)

      • by Splod (40032)

        Hadn't seen this before. It's impressive, but I can't help but wonder what the editing environment is like. It's demanding enough to currently create a highly hyperlinked document (in terms of UI/window management and keeping track of where you are). I can't conceive of how to make a user-friendly editing environment for the Xanadu-type docs.

      • by snowgirl (978879) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:12AM (#35828208) Journal

        Guy sounds like the height of arrogance... "zOMG, you're not doing it my way, the way I think, therefore it is wrong."

        Really, his demonstration is just a paper-like source document with a paper-like side document of related or identical material... there's nothing new or interesting about it... and the navigation in 3D of the paper-like documents looks clumsy and ill-conceived...

        I like the idea of having parallel text that can be expanded on the fly, but I was thinking about that before I even saw this steaming pile of turds called Xanadu...

        • But just think of this adapted to file systems and networks and terminals... it will be just like Hackers the movie!

          What every interface designer has realized is that 3D "flying" mechanics are bullshit gimmicks that everybody hates within minutes of use. If something can be available immediately, it should be, you shouldn't have to "fly" to it just so you can admire what a "cool" visual effect that is. Interfaces aren't flat because people are uncreative and stupid, they're flat because that is the most e
    • by JBMcB (73720)

      He envisions something like a more advanced semantic web. Think of Wikipedia plugged into Wolfram Alpha, but instead of static HTML pages everything is stored as linked concepts. So if you ask for information on Romania, all the linked information on Romania would be generated in an abstract based on information related to Romania. You would also get all the information related to Romania - the diaspora, eastern European politics, etc... If you clicked on Romanian Diaspora, it would bring up all the relevan

      • Re:WTF? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by DarkOx (621550) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:22AM (#35828302) Journal

        Its a nice concept but where it falls down is meta data. You need good metadata on every document when its stored to make this sort of thing work. The computer does not know Romania, the country from some girl who happened to be named Romania. The trouble there are really one two solutions,

        A) Make end users actually tag things correctly, and completely
        B) User mind boggling amounts of computer power to do the sort of deep statistical analysis, like IBM's Watson to categorize things.

        B will likely work in the near future, A has been tried a thousand times there is no sense in going down that path anymore.

      • by delinear (991444)
        But the information would still be disparate and arbitrarily assembled. Unless you have some governing body deciding what is and isn't allowed on the internet, your scientific research into the biology of the feline species is still going to get cluttered with people posting LOLcats, and your research into the effects of the sun on skin will still pollute your data with ads for anti-ageing creams. We could have what he's suggesting right now with the technologies we have at our disposal and minimal developm
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      He is talking about the same thing as code reuse : information should be referenced instead of being copied.

      In his idea (and I like that) when you answer to an email, the information effectively transmitted should be something like "[quote char=1438:5661 msg=rms@gnu.org:id0182700927811] lol" instead of a verbatim copy of the original text without any mean to find the whole email.

      This conceptually more satisfying approach require a different architecture and also (IMHO) a completely different legal fra
    • by Megane (129182)
      It's called Transclusion. [wikipedia.org] Using modern terms, it's basically taking text from "the cloud" and inserting it as a reference into your document. How long it takes to reach that transcluded data, and what happens when "the cloud" evaporates is what makes it into ivory tower rocket science.
    • [My approach] would be entirely different from today's documents where you look at one page at a time and you can see a ribbon or beam connecting documents together,â he said. âoeHaving to refer to a paragraph and a sentence in an e-mail is just so barbaric when you could just strike it out and make the connection between sentences.

      Is it just me, or is this just completely incoherent? What the hell is he talking about?

      Thats what happens when you try to communicate without paragraphs and sentences

  • by FudRucker (866063) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:32AM (#35827820)
    you dont know whats inside until you get there and look around, sometimes you have a good idea whats there and can be predictable at websites (or stores) you frequently go to, but when opening unknown URLs (or visiting new stores) you have no idea until you get there
  • by v1 (525388) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:33AM (#35827830) Homepage Journal

    you can see something to click on but youâ(TM)ve got nowhere else to go.

    I assume by "nowhere else to go" they mean you are going to just go to another web page. So, what else would they suggest?

    I would disagree with even that assessment, some clickables trigger downloads, or open a new window that contains only an image, or a video. Some clickable downloads trigger on download complete to launch an application, start an installation, etc. But for the most part, clicking on a link in content takes you to other content, with more clickable links. Seems like a good thing to me?

    How is Ted suggesting it should really work? Clicking a link causes your car to start? Or a pizza to land on your desk? (ok we can kinda already do that)

  • The Xanadu Project? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AdmiralXyz (1378985) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:35AM (#35827850)
    You mean that thing that's supposed to be superior to the World Wide Web, but that's been in development hell for the last fifty years? (Duke Nukem Forever, most delayed software ever? Ha.) Someone needs to tell this guy that it doesn't matter how superior your invention is if no one ever sees it. Like Steve Jobs said, "Real artists ship."
  • by chebucto (992517) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:35AM (#35827852) Homepage

    I remember seeing this guy in Cringley's Triumph of the Nerds 2.0. I seem to remember his Xanadu system failing because it is exceedingly difficult to use in practice, however useful it sound in theory.

    Can one of the greybeards here enlighten me as to what, exactly, Xanadu was?

    • by RingDev (879105) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:46AM (#35827958) Homepage Journal

      Correction, what Xanadu "is" ;)

      http://www.xanadu.com/ [xanadu.com]

      It's basically an MDI for browsing where links open horrizontally and scroll with the page. It's a clugy attempt at what he is talking about.

      -Rick

      • No Xanadu was a futurmistic house in Orlando made of spray foam insulation. It has since been demolished and lost in the mists of time. Among its wonders was it that was managed by these things called personal computers. (see, not totally OT)
      • I think that is a good assessment. He has the concept firmly in his head but making that concept functional is still difficult. But I think the demo still has merit as a demo even though it is clearly not ready for mass consumption. It is interesting and I wish there was more such interesting demos being presented to get some "new" ideas (I say new simply in jest) injected into the infrastructure of what we call network computing or the web.
    • by tomhuxley (951364) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:54AM (#35828044)

      If you think of Xanadu as a highly available redundant P2P document system mixing in TBL's Semantic Web and adding more automation, you get a bit closer to what Ted Nelson was trying to do with Xanadu.

      http://xanadu.com.au/general/faq.html [xanadu.com.au]

      Section two of the FAQ covers what a Xanadu system was supposed to entail.

      This article (originally on Wired) covers some of the controversies that have broiled up:

      http://aether.com/archives/the_curse_of_xanadu.html [aether.com]

      If you can find Nelson's 1982 Datamation article it is pretty interesting but I couldn't find it anymore after some quick Google searches (YMMV).

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:35AM (#35827858) Journal

    He lists several very abstract complaints, without giving an example of at least one way in which he thinks it could be differently, and done better?

    I'm not in complete disagreement with him that the web could be improved. For one thing, we've given website creators so much control over presentation, that there's no standard 'look' to hyperlinks anymore - ever been to a website and not even *realized* that one of the elements in the page was a link to something else?

    Also, there's too much problem of link obfuscation - the problem of the user having absolutely no idea where a link will take them, because when they hover the mouse over the link, it just shows some useless javascript, or the site designer used some javascript to make something which is not a link behave like a link, but not actually give the user any feedback about where it goes to, or the link is rendered by Flash, and Flash never tells you where a link goes. I just hate that.

    But, I'm not really sure that's what this guy was talking about. In fact, his complaints were *so* abstract, I have no idea what he was complaining about?

    • And wanna be graphic designers. They tired to make the medium of the Web look and works just like the medium of prints. So now we have have to move our mouse over an item to see if it is a link or not. Or my pet peeve websites that have a fixed width or work best at one resolution. Really? I worked with one idiot once that gave me web pages to put up that where nothing but a matrix of GIF files! The web is fighting a real fight with the from over function people.
      I agree with you on the mouse overs not show

  • When you get down to it, files are based on documents, books, scrolls, etc. So by implication, the first known clay tablets being written in Sumeria, one could say our model of information storage and retrieval dates to about that time. I don't know how one could do it differently or better. Is he advocating having computers display spinning colorful text and mathematical gibberish like in the movies?
  • by Aerorae (1941752) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:37AM (#35827870)
    "The people who run the technology the last thing they want is something new to deal with,”

    I dunno, I deal with end-users all the time and for the most part they aren't exactly eager to learn new software/hardware concepts either...
  • Yawn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MBGMorden (803437) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:37AM (#35827874)

    Yet another visionary wanting to do something different just for the sake being different. It's become popular lately to claim that particular industries or areas are doing it "all wrong", because naturally, if their whole process is "wrong", and you know the "right" way, then you're a genius right?

    In reality, some things haven't changed in a long time because we've figured out something that works well. Every time I hear one of these "revolutionary" interface ideas they work well for the couple of examples that their creators can cite, but typically fall flat when you try to then adapt it to the entire world of computing.

    • Ted Nelson really pioneered hypertext concepts - there is no being different for the sake of being different here. What he originally proposed is different to the web - it is far more general and powerful (and not really related to the interface - more about the underlying information model).

      If anything, the reality is the opposite of what you suggest. The web is really quite poor at doing a whole bunch of things - but it's what we've got, so clever people have spent time adapting the world of computing to

    • If you want to show people how to do ti right you have to, well, actually SHOW people how it'd be done right. As in release something better. I can talk and talk all I like about how much better method X would be. I can have meetings, draw up vague standards and so on. Nobody is going to give a shit until I release a product that actually puts it in to practice.

      The advantage HTTP has going for it is that it is actually live, on the net, NOW. It works, it gets data from servers to computers and combined with

    • by grumbel (592662)

      Yet another visionary wanting to do something different just for the sake being different.

      Where do you get that idea? He doesn't want it because it is different, but because it is vastly more powerful then what we currently have. What he is talking about is basically a Wiki on steroids.

      In reality, some things haven't changed in a long time because we've figured out something that works well.

      Only if you have really low expectations for "work well". I consider todays software completely abysmal as it is completely awful at doing even basic things (at least a dozen different ways to enter text, all of them more or less incompatible and different). Simply put, todays computers are like computers 30 years

    • Yet another visionary wanting to do something different just for the sake [of] being different.

      Well, except that he proposed this fifteen years before the web came into existence. It had a lot of good ideas which, had they been implemented, would have solved a lot of the issues plaguing the web today: Spam? Gone, because it could be backtraced to its original secured source and either be filtered, or allowed legal action to be taken. Same for most other malware. The whole issue about copyrighted content b

  • Oh Really? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Son of Byrne (1458629)
    I think that he poses valid points in the article and perhaps he said more that this little blurb of an article didn't relate, but I have 7 words for this person who wishes to remain relevant by telling everyone that we're doing it wrong:

    Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.
  • So he hates the WWW, current OSs, and apparently apple pie and Grandma. Does he have any real constructive ideas he wishes to share with us? Either he's just talking out of his ass, or TFA is an extremely light fluff piece. Yeah, you hate what's out there. Where are your ideas for something better?

    Perhaps this is why Xanadu has been vaporware for what, 50 years?

  • To claim that something which is obviously usable by millions is simply wrong just has to be simply wrong.
  • by Tei (520358) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:53AM (#35828014) Journal

    I have a 2.5 years old cousin that can use the iPad and a Wii as good as my father. We are very good at this, the computing devices. Sure, we have made some trade ofs, so the most powerusers lose something (complex hotkey commands), and people good at abstract thinking lose something (the console)... but In the end we have something that is both easy to use, and powerfull. Will anything made by this dude be this balanced?

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      ...on the other hand a 90 year old great-grandmother might be more comfortable with new tech than her daughter.

      Some people are are going to be a problem no matter how easy you make things.

  • Grapes are Sour.

  • One thing they've mentioned on many occasions is that 404 errors bug the shit out of them. In the Xanadu system, all links were two-way, and you couldn't end up with a broken reference like that.

    What sunk Xanadu, IMHO, is that it was much too ambitious. They were trying to make a framework to present the sum total of human knowledge. Still, some extremely clever work was done on that project, both before and during the Autodesk years.

    -jcr

    • by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:18AM (#35828268) Homepage

      One thing they've mentioned on many occasions is that 404 errors bug the shit out of them. In the Xanadu system, all links were two-way, and you couldn't end up with a broken reference like that.

      How would it be possible to not have 404's unless every document took control (ie. a copy) of every document to which it linked (and subsequently would have to link to everything linked in those linked pages, ad infinitum).

      That seems to be the obvious flaw in everything this guy has talked about for 50 years. XanaduSpace is really no different from a web browser with regular links, all that it does is load all linked pages simultaneously and display the linked documents in the background of some 3D view. Real browsers don't do this because they have to deal with the reality that the linked pages are hosted remotely and therefore have latency and bandwidth issues which need to be balanced with the likelihood of a user wanting to actually follow that link.

      XanaduSpace's entire concept seems to be predicated on the assumption that all linked content is immediately available and immutable. This obviously cannot work on non-trivial amounts of data. Either it would mean having the entire Internet on your local computer or, slightly more realistically (but altogether more scary), having some kind of central Internet server/database/authority that maintained control of all published documents. Short of an international fascist uprising I don't see that happening.

    • by Thud457 (234763)

      What sunk Xanadu, IMHO, is that it was much too ambitious. They were trying to make a framework to present the sum total of human knowledge. Still, some extremely clever work was done on that project, both before and during the Autodesk years.

      too ambitious?! Not ambitious enough I say!
      What about non-human knowledge [google.com]?!
      Or, a little more seriously, knowledge synthesized by some machine intelligence? What about imaginary knowledge? Or, knowledge of the imaginary [eveonline.com]? What about unknowledge [foxnews.com]?!!

      Actually, that is one problem we have with using the web as a knowledgebase for bootstrapping GOLEM III , there's to way to capture the veracity of anything. All this information from different sources is given equal weight in truthiness.

    • by Megane (129182)

      The links could be two-way because the documents were all under control of the Xanadu system. In other words, it (IMHO) depended too much on centralized control. Even if data could be broken up into different servers, it seems to me that there still needs to be a centralized administration to make everything work right. The current HTTP/HTML infrastructure works quite well with anybody being able to run their own server, in spite of those pesky 404 errors that happen when the server is taken down permanentl

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Friday April 15, 2011 @09:59AM (#35828094)

    Qwerty key boards have been shown to be less effective than other layouts, but they are still used for over a century.

    Qwerty may not be the best but it is "good enough" to get work and fun done (plus the common command keys just happen to all be on the left hand leaving the right hand free for the mouse/cursor).

    Hypertext may be the same sort of thing. New organizational structures may appear, but in the end we still read/link pages/books/articles and audio/video and it seems he's talking about better ways of relevance links.

    Lets see Ted Nelson's best shot at what should come next.

    When all is said and done, more is said than done.

  • Ok guy who came up with one good idea 40 years ago and hasn't done anything new since... Thanks for your contribution. But I think you might be a bit out of the loop in regards to what's going on.
  • Aww, somebody didn't make a billion dollars even though they are smarter than everyone else.

  • Windows, Macintosh and Linux have 'exactly the same' approach to computing

    So I guess he would prefer that each manufacturer come up with a different approach for the WWW, so that Macs could not read documents created on Windows and vice versa?

  • Okay Ted,

    Instead of whining about things, why don't you actually write some code and fix them? And since Linux is open source, you can start there.

  • According to Ted Nelson entry on wikipedia:

    "He coined the terms "hypertext" and "hypermedia" in 1963 and published it in 1965. He also is credited with first use of the words transclusion, virtuality, intertwingularity and teledildonics."

    So what next? He'll tell us that humanity is doing sex the wrong way and teledildonics is the way to go?

  • Gee Ted, in your awful future, I would've be paying PER WORD.

    Fuck you. You lost. Move on.

  • Look, I know this Ted Nelson is a brilliant guy and all, and I've seen his Xanadu creation, and it's a nice thought. But honestly, there are too many layers to things to be able to draw a solid line for what links to what. What part of an excerpt do you link? Back to the original book? Back to the dictionary for individual meanings of the words? Simultaneous links to other commentary? See what I'm saying? A word or phrase could have a multitude of links pointing every-which-way. It would be incompre

  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday April 15, 2011 @10:48AM (#35828628)
    This is far from the first time where better technology loses to "[almost]-free", "immediately-available" and "open-source". We have UNIX verses VMS, Linux versus everything else, C++ versus Ojective-C, just to name a few.

    Now and then the other ways wins as with Adobe, Apple, etc.
  • by alispguru (72689) <bane@NoSPam.gst.com> on Friday April 15, 2011 @11:52AM (#35829410) Journal

    ... the WWW was not created primarily with the interests of content creators in mind. You've said this repeatedly over the last 40 years. Some of us even agree with you, but your vision would never have taken off on its own like the WWW did.

    The WWW was built by engineers, who knew that requiring global two-way links was a complete non-starter. From building and running the pre-WWW internet, they knew that two-way linking would have been too fragile - requiring the cooperation of a remote server when linking to its content? Yikes!

  • by mugnyte (203225) on Friday April 15, 2011 @12:39PM (#35830066) Journal

    Every Xanadu server is uniquely and securely identified.
    This seems like a tilt to remove rogue members of a trusted network. But the "trust provider" is just lifting the issue to another set of players with the same problem. Who is the registrar for identification? How do we trust them? How is a registry of servers co-managed efficiently?

    Every Xanadu server can be operated independently or in a network.
    This seems like stating the obvious, but combined with the above, can I operate independently without being "uniquely and securely identified" ?

    Every user is uniquely and securely identified.
    Anonymity is gone? Is there no belief in the "anonymous suggestion box" psychology that by staying anonymous, more participation can be encountered? This seems like another tilt towards tracking all actions and statements. Again, who is the identifier? What are the rules of privacy?

    Every user can search, retrieve, create and store documents.
    Just like a Wiki. Can we comment on documents? Can we copy them? Can we derive new works based on them? Can we delete them?

    Every document can consist of any number of parts each of which may be of any data type.
    Which means a document is a compound object that requires any number of translators from storage format to human-interface. Just like a, um, web site. Can a new data type be introduced? By whom?

    Every document can contain links of any type including virtual copies ("transclusions") to any other document in the system accessible to its owner.
    You cannot link to documents you do not own? You cannot link to general server locations, when therein it completes the query (index,default,home)?

    Links are visible and can be followed from all endpoints.
    "Visible" seems ambiguous. Is the blue underlined word required? This seems to imply all links are bi-directional. Do I really want to see all the links to article (like those inane "trackback" comments on blogs)?

    Permission to link to a document is explicitly granted by the act of publication.
    What about deep linking? Can someone link to be bank statement? My email inbox? What is meant by "publication"? Not everything online should be public.

    Every document can contain a royalty mechanism at any desired degree of granularity to ensure payment on any portion accessed, including virtual copies ("transclusions") of all or part of the document.
    So all links and downloads have a micropayment mechanism. Who is ensuring payment? How do public terminals (libraries, coffee shops) with anonymous users pay for content? What if someone operates a server "independently" and refuses payment but has captured and is serving the same content, or derived content? Do we have a "download police" ?

    Every document is uniquely and securely identified.
    By whom? How? What is a document? How are documents revoked?

    Every document can have secure access controls.

    • by mugnyte (203225)

      Overall, Ted Nelson seems to want to build an internet where he controls all of the rules, and a series of authorities dictate stricter rules of participation than today's model. That's fine, he can create that.

      However, there will always be another entity to allow for most of these rules to be ignored, broken, and redesigned. One cannot remove the chaos of the group, I believe. There are just tiers of agreed upon rule sets that each subgroup in society will use, and there just isn't "one ring to r

  • by Godeke (32895) * on Friday April 15, 2011 @01:11PM (#35830466)

    I have followed alternative presentations of knowledge for a long time, dabbling in creating systems for pseudo-3D presentation of information, using various types of mind mapping and collaborative knowledge systems. The reality is that the web succeeded and the various competitors failed precisely because of the "poor" implementation choices of the current nightmare of kludged together technologies are "worse is better" type work. Would it be nice to have a better framework? Sure, but not at the cost of paralysis.

    Xanadu wants to give strict copyright enforcement with a pay-as-you-eat system for consumption. The implementations have been plagued by pulling the rug out from under any implementer who gets "close" to a solution, usually with accusations that the implementer was trying to steal his technology. The Xanadu system is intended (as far as I have seen: the implementations never got far enough to tell for sure) to allow distributed content, but always with verification of the original source material's permissions and state. In short: the project is surrounded by control freak symptoms.

    Maybe we will have such systems in the future, but they will stand along side the chaos that is the open Internet and I'm glad for it. For every neat feature I like about Xanadu, there is a control freak feature that takes away from the free-form nature of the existing Internet. Xanadu would make a great academic knowledge system, perhaps a real authoritative online Wikipedia where people with actual knowledge contributed and could avoid random yahoo intervention on their work. But I would never want to live with it as the only implementation of hyperlinking.

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday April 15, 2011 @01:27PM (#35830652) Homepage

    I was around for the period when Autodesk owned Xanadu, and met all the players. Nelson talked a good game, but didn't have the right idea.

    The big problem with Xanadu, in retrospect, is that it was more of a payment system than an information-distribution system. Nelson had attracted a number of "the solution to everything is a market" people, and they'd designed a complex system of multi-way micropayments. Xanadu was set up as a pay per view source-code management system. You paid to read, and if you checked something in, you'd get paid for your contribution if others read it. Many people could edit the same thing and create forks, there was a merging process, and it was all very complicated.

    This seemed reasonable at the time. Lexis, Nexis, and Mead Data Central were all successful centralized high-end pay per view document retrieval systems. Xanadu was a fancier version of such systems.

    The envisioned pricing was very high. People were talking about documents costing $20 to $100 and upwards. The initial application was seen as a distribution system for financial newsletters. (There's a whole world of expensive financial newsletters that investors buy. For maybe $100 a month you get a few pages of financial advice. Some newsletters are worth it.)

    Also, Nelson was very text-focused. Xanadu didn't do images, let alone streaming audio or video. How would you price an edit to an image?

    The basic flaw in the Xanadu concept was simply that user attention, not content creation, turned out to be the scarce resource. We thus have a mostly free / ad supported information economy, rather than a pay-per-view one.

  • by stewbacca (1033764) on Friday April 15, 2011 @01:47PM (#35830892)

    Mr. Nelson seems to think the flaw in current operating systems is in their desktop metaphor. Well, that metaphor has worked quite well for the masses, since, well, it's a good metaphor that is easily understood by most people (with specific western cultural biases, mind you).

    Certainly the desktop metaphor may get to the point where people don't understand the metaphor anymore, but that is not happening anytime soon. A current example would be why is there a picture of a floppy disk to save data? Would any 8th grader know what a floppy disk is? If not, how does that icon make any sense at all?

    The desktop metaphor, for the most part, still makes perfect sense for most people.

    • by dcollins (135727)

      "A current example would be why is there a picture of a floppy disk to save data? Would any 8th grader know what a floppy disk is? If not, how does that icon make any sense at all?"

      No. I've found that even for current college students, that icon has no meaning [angrymath.com].

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