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Xanadu Software Released After 54 Years In the Making 90

redletterdave writes: "'Project Xanadu,' designed by hypertext inventor Ted Nelson to let users build documents that automatically embed the sources they're linking back to and show the visible connections between parallel webpages, was released in late April at a Chapman University event. Thing is, development on Xanadu began in 1960 — that's 54 years ago — making it the most delayed software in history. 'At its simplest, Xanadu lets users build documents that seamlessly embed the sources which they are linking back to, creating, in Nelson's words, "an entire form of literature where links do not break as versions change; where documents may be closely compared side by side and closely annotated; where it is possible to see the origins of every quotation; and in which there is a valid copyright system - a literary, legal and business arrangement - for frictionless, non-negotiated quotation at any time and in any amount." The version released on the internet, named OpenXanadu, is a simple document created using quoted sections from eight other works, including the King James Bible and the Wikipedia page on Steady State Theory.'"
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Xanadu Software Released After 54 Years In the Making

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  • by MrKevvy ( 85565 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @02:54PM (#47181901)

    I'll hold out for version 2.0 when they work the bugs out.

  • by WormholeFiend ( 674934 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @02:57PM (#47181923)

    anyone would beat the Duke Nukem Forever record

    • Next contender: Half-life 3!

        • by PRMan ( 959735 )
          Or ReactOS. Do they have their Windows 2000 clone out yet? No? Almost there?
        • by gr8dude ( 832945 )

          In one of Richard Stallman's lectures, someone asked him why progress on Hurd is slow. The response was that this is not a pressing matter anymore, as there are other free kernels out there that are mature.

          In other words, there are other problems society needs to focus on, so don't hold your breath for GNU Hurd.

          • by doom ( 14564 )
            Just wait... a decade or two hence I fully believe we will be using Hurd on our trillion processor desktop machines, programming in Perl 6, to customize a version of Xanadu running on Parrot.
  • by OakDragon ( 885217 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @02:58PM (#47181927) Journal
    Alternately titled "Project Xanadu Forever".
    • Several of my friends were early Xanadudes. At one point there was a serious risk that they might actually ship a product, and Ted would lose his Golden Vaporware Awards, but somehow it never quite happened.

  • I would have thought nothing would come out later than initially intended after duke nukem but it looks like we have a new record!
  • by just_another_sean ( 919159 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @03:04PM (#47181971) Journal

    Anyone see the actual document before it was /.ed?

    • Re:/.ed (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 06, 2014 @03:59PM (#47182401)

      had a very brief look earlier, not sure if the performance pre /.ed was all that different. Kind of multicolored mashup of a Bible text, plus a few other bits, all a bit buggy and not necessarily immediately intuitive.

      The real story, rather than this particular proof-of-concept site, probably remains the fact, had they taken a (relatively minor) left turn somewhere along the line in the half-century of development, they could easily have been Google, or Wikipedia. Unfortunately, perfectionism reigned, was always entirely too ambitious a project in scope and the simple law of keeping it simple, stupid was, as always, forgotten along the way.

      Fantastic Wired article here ( ) from 95 - long, but well worth a read, Xanadu be definitely back online by the time you get through that..

    • by myoparo ( 933550 )

      Slashdotted!? We must make note of this-- a page hasn't been Slashdotted in almost a decade!

  • Was John Romero working on this project too?
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @03:15PM (#47182081) Journal
    People it is a treasure! I think people should go through the documentation of this project carefully. It predates the entire internet, but talks about links between documents, references, referees etc. I think we can find prior art by the tons here. We might be able to invalidate many many trivial patents on the internet and web pages here.
    • It predates the entire internet, but talks about links between documents, references, referees etc.

      Talk is not the same thing as a workable solution. Particularly when applied to systems that do not yet exist.

      • Well Ted and his (various) teams did actually build semi-working versions of Xanadu. The project was at one point owned by AutoDesk. So even if it wasn't popular, that would stilll count as prior art.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Talk is not the same thing as a workable solution.

        Funny, you could say the same about a lot of patents.

        I pulled up the claims for patent #2,000,000 (filed 1932, issued in 1935):

        1. The combination with a rail wheel provided with a retaining flange, of a pneumatic tire mounted upon said wheel adjacent said flange and having a transversely elongated cross section, said tire having an outer tread wall having a tread portion transversely reatively flat of a width somewhat greater than the width of a rail head, s

      • Talk is not the same thing as a workable solution.

        Since when do patents do anything other than talk in general senses about systems which have never been built? Genuine question. Thhey used to, they don't any more.

    • Wouldn't the release of the software and/or documentation need to predate the patents for that to work? I'm not sure how this would work.

    • If it was never published anywhere it is not 'prior art' regarding patents.
      It only protects the 'inventor' of that 'prior thing' from patent infringement (in europe, no idea about the USA ... it is called 'independent development' btw. and not 'prior art' in that case)

  • Problem Solved (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hhawk ( 26580 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @03:37PM (#47182247) Homepage Journal

    There is a problem that Xanadu really solves which is when you want to cite someone else's text verbatim... its a direct and visual link back to the source.. so it's clear whose words are being used, where they come from and there is an easy Color coded and visual LINK to see them in full context.. HMTL named hyperlinks can accomplish much of the same however... the interface for Xanadu is much more fluid...

    i would enjoy writing with Xanadu...

  • Repost (Score:5, Informative)

    by seamonkey23 ( 3685019 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @04:30PM (#47182675) []
    Come on guys, get it together.
  • They should have done like our never to be released xanadu and renamed it first.
  • 54 years...making it the most delayed software in history.

    Well, I guess hail to the queen, baby!

  • by mugnyte ( 203225 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @07:35PM (#47184059) Journal

    The issue of tracking entities that quote your resource is not really the size of a problem that demands this much answer.
    IIRC, the original design included a large number of other features that became nonsensical as modern conventions for information arrived:
    - We do not require licensing or micropayment for quoting text or speech. The www follows free-speech by default, and tools must be built on top to restrict things. (Among many reasons why not: There is no permanent trust-able entity for enforcement)
    - There is a vastly larger usage of linking than quote usage (links jump but also embed)
    - Commercial licensing of text, images and video is still required but the infrastructure to enforce it has to constantly differentiate by usage and intent (satire, education), not mere presence or absence. (YouTube's big review process...)
    - There is no permanent barrier to building a free side-channel for information that would otherwise be licensed. (P2P File Sharing, etc)


  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Friday June 06, 2014 @09:25PM (#47184559) Homepage

    See "The Skills of Xanadu", as text: []
    and as audio: []

    Around 2001 or 2002, while working at at IBM Research I went to a talk by Ted Nelson there, and I asked him about the story given the similar name. He said that the story had inspired him (at least partially) to do his work, and thanked me for telling him the name of the story, saying he had been looking for that story for a long time. While I did not say so, his reply about looking for the story surprised me given that there are probably not many stories with Xanadu in the title so a library search would have found it I would think.. Ted Nelson records everything around him on a tape recorder (or at least did then), so that interaction should be on one of his tapes...

    The 1956 story by Theodore Sturgeon is am amazing work that features a world networked by wireless mobile wearable computing supporting freely shared knowledge and skills through a sort of global internet-like concept. Some of that knowledge was about advanced nanotech-based manufacturing. The system powered an economy reflecting ideas like Bob Black writes about in "The Abolition of Work", where much work had become play coordinated through this global network. The story has inspired other people as well, both me from when I read it (and forgot it mostly for a long time, except for the surprise ending), and also a Master Inventor at IBM I worked with who got inspired by the nanotech aspects of that story when he was young. Even almost sixty years later, that story still has things we can learn from about a vision of a new type of society (including with enhanced intrinsic&mutual security) made possible through advanced computing.

    A core theme is an interplay between meshwork and hierarchy, reminiscent of Manuel De Landa's writings: []
    "Indeed, one must resist the temptation to make hierarchies into villains and meshworks into heroes, not only because, as I said, they are constantly turning into one another, but because in real life we find only mixtures and hybrids, and the properties of these cannot be established through theory alone but demand concrete experimentation. Certain standardizations, say, of electric outlet designs or of data-structures traveling through the Internet, may actually turn out to promote heterogenization at another level, in terms of the appliances that may be designed around the standard outlet, or of the services that a common data-structure may make possible. On the other hand, the mere presence of increased heterogeneity is no guarantee that a better state for society has been achieved. After all, the territory occupied by former Yugoslavia is more heterogeneous now than it was ten years ago, but the lack of uniformity at one level simply hides an increase of homogeneity at the level of the warring ethnic communities. But even if we managed to promote not only heterogeneity, but diversity articulated into a meshwork, that still would not be a perfect solution. After all, meshworks grow by drift and they may drift to places where we do not want to go. The goal-directedness of hierarchies is the kind of property that we may desire to keep at least for certain institutions. Hence, demonizing centralization and glorifying decentralization as the solution to all our problems would be wrong. An open and experimental attitude towards the question of different hybrids and mixtures is what the complexity of reality itself seems to call for."

    See also, for other "old" ideas we could still benefit from thinking about:
    "The Web That Wasn't" []
    "Google Tech Talks October, 23 2007
    For most of us who work on the

  • A so sad, too bad story of genius... it reminds me of some of the tales told in the Cosmos and Connections series (Sagan, Tyson and Burke) of astronomical and physics visionaries, folks glimpsed truths that became essential building blocks of our modern understanding of the world, and yet in their own time this information was of little or no practical use.

    I've been down some of the rabbit holes of Xanadu in my own algorithmic doodles which centered around 'compressing' information by changing tokens into r

  • I knew the people who worked on Xanadu though not quite back to the earliest days.

    The design was largely completed by the time Autodesk got out of funding it. For a while the project continued under Memex (later Filoli over trademark issues). Memex had funding problems, the core group quit, and when Memex was funded again Roger Gregory (one of the original team members) and I were brought in to try to make sense of what they had. My experience was long out of date FORTRAN and more recent assembly. The m

  • That Gary Wolf hit piece about Xanadu is one of the worst things written on the subject... he apparently figured he could get away with empty vapid sneering on some logic like "if he's so smart why isn't he rich?". Be sure to look at the comments published at wired, including the second one by Nelson himself [] []
  • The more I read about Ted Nelson and the story behind it, there's much to learn. Firstly, what an extreme example of becoming too enmeshed with ideas (worse, ideas about ideas). His drive to index everything seems to be driven from his extreme case of ADD. But not every thread of thought needs to be catalogued and indexed, something that is harder to remember in the days of social media.

    But mercilessly tracing connections between ideas can truly be a madman's folly. The crux of scholarship is not obsessivel

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle