The Information Future
One simple idea
There are many views of just what tomorrow's electronic media will be,
and how they will reach the consumer. The Xanadu plan proposes a single
unified world of data to which everyone will have point-and-click access
from whatever computer, videogame or multimedia player they want to use.
Think of it as a real data bank. Just as you put your money in a bank
for safekeeping, you can put your data on the Xanadu network for
safekeeping. And in the same way that your money can earn interest in a
bank, your data can make money too. If anybody wants pieces of it, they
buy it from the network and you get paid. You get paid even if other
people use parts of it in their work. On the Xanadu network, any object
may quote from any other, since the material quoted is bought from the
original publisher at the time of delivery. We've succeeded in cleaning
up the copyright problem for computer networks.
Besides what individuals and publishers put in, new forms of
interconnection and quotation are possible creating a new world of
The multimedia connection problem
Current "multi-media standards" as practiced by the industry are built
on a closed-unit philosophy, whereby multimedia objects are
encapsulations that do not allow interconnection between documents.
This is a dead-end world.
Xanadu structure is built for OPEN HYPERMEDIA
PUBLISHING, allowing free interconnection among documents. Every
author of a new document is free to connect to previous documents,
including quotation, without pre-arrangement or advance payment.
If you are an AUTHOR or ARTIST:
You can make your work available with very little difficulty -- whether
it's poetry or a novel; photography, music or movies; or some new medium
you have invented. As long as it's digital, you can publish it yourself
on Xanadu at a small cost (depending on the medium and how much computer
storage space it takes). Or you can give the job of publishing and
marketing your work to someone else.
Once your materials are on the network, anyone with a modem can buy a
copy and make connections to it that make it even more interesting or
useful for others. Each time material from your document or object is
bought by anybody, you can get a royalty on that fragment.
If you would like to READ, ROAM, EXPLORE and
All you will need will be your computer, a modem or other network
connection and a Xanadu exploration program, then you simply sign up for
an account with your preferred Xanadu service
provider. Different service providers will offer different
conveniences. One may be near your home. Another may offer better
prices or a special deal you like. Many will be on the Internet. But
as soon as you connect to one service provider, YOU HAVE ACCESS TO
WHAT'S ON ALL OF THEM.
Now, starting anywhere, you can point and click, sending for text,
graphics, music and audio, photographs, movies and everything else in
the ever-expannding world of Xanadu literature. You pay for whatever
you retrieve, but you need only buy those parts you find interesting or
useful. To help you do this,information will be available to you about
the author, type and price of a document. Also available will be reviews
by others, electronic "dust jackets", advertising summaries with
quotations prepared by the publishers themselves. There is no
distinction between just looking at a document and saving it since
anyone with a modem can save whatever is sent. Therefore, the user is
free to keep a copy of what has been looked at, but the price for this
A user may simultaneously read and publish like users on electronic
forums. But in our system there are no boundaries to forums or
discussion groups, royalty is built in and links among documents are
part of the docuverse.
If you are a PUBLISHER:
The publisher is the person or company that takes responsibility for the
contents of the published material. In the paper world, the publisher
often arranges for the production of a work, its manufacture (as a book
or other physical object) and for the marketing and distribution. In
return the publisher collects a percentage of the profits. It is much
the same in the Xanadu world. The publisher is the person or company
that signs the deal with a Xanadu service provider. The publisher will
still need to perform all of the usual functions including marketing,
but Xanadu will now perform in essence the manufacture and distribution
The publication contract
Just as a paper publisher contracts with a printer, a Xanadu publisher
contracts with a Xanadu service provider. A formal contract is signed
arranging payment for storage and other aspects. If you are the
publisher, you are responsible for avoiding publishing material you do
not own or that violates the law or rights of others who may sue you.
As a publisher you agree to abide by the laws. You agree to pay in
advance for at least three years' storage of your material in three
places for safety. Publishers pay for storage, users pay for delivery.
You also agree to permit others to make links or transclusions
(quotation pointers) to your document.
As the publisher, you decide the amount of royalty and you receive
whatever royalties are paid by users of your document on the network.
You must then distribute these royalties to participating authors or
others with whom you have made payment commitments.
If you or your company would like to be a SERVICE
The Xanadu network will have many service providers of all kinds and
sizes, ranging from individuals publishing the work of a small town or
neighborhood to huge telephone companies. There will be many ways to
participate and many ways to compete or find a particular niche in the
market. All supply the same basic service. All Xanadu service
providers will use a common system of software and supply material on
request by users, forming one great common pool.
How it works in detail
Think of the Xanadu network as a single place for storing and publishing
electronic documents and selling digital objects with interconnections
and new objects made from them. The Xanadu network is not necessarily
physically connected, but an affiliation of centres whose server
computers behave as a single entity using the Xanadu publication method.
These are run by companies and individuals who choose to be service
providers using the shared method.
- ALL MATERIAL IS ONE
- All the contents on all of the Xanadu storage servers act as a
single pool. You can send for any part of any document or link to or
quote any part of any document.
- THE REQUESTS FAN OUT
- Users ask for pieces of documents and objects. A request is
received by the user's session node which fans it out to wherever the
- AND THE PAYMENTS COME BACK
- The user's payment is correspondingly sent to those publishers
involved with the transaction.
People are free to read anything. Xanadu creates a point-and-click
universe with user freedom.
All hypertext jumps are reversible. Under other systems the reader is
often tunnelled into reading in only one direction on any given
document. We believe the reader must always be free to go back, turn
the page, fast-forward or access the original document of a quote.
The system will not keep records of who sends for what; otherwise
reading becomes a political act.
People will be free to jump into a document at any place and use it
according to their own preferences.
Definition of terms
- The computer screen makes new forms of writing possible that are not
sequential. "Hypertext," a term coined by us, mean non-sequential
writing for the computer screen (our term "hypertext" is now in wide
- "Hypermedia," another of our terms, extends the hypertext concept to
sound, video and computer graphics. Multimedia presentations where the
user may branch and explore have now become recognised as an exciting
new educational and artistic medium. The Manhole, Virtual Valerie and
Carmen Sandiego are among titles already popular in this area. CD-I and
3DO are among the hardware players being fielded. Some use the term
"interactive multimedia," but it is indeed the same thing as hypermedia.
- THE REPOSITORY NETWORK
- We think the future goes far beyond hardware players and plastic
disks. Tomorrow's publishing for computer screens will be principally
over networks. Xanadu has been planned from the beginning as a network
for delivery of copyrighted media to users on demand.
- AUTOMATIC ROYALTY
- Our copyright solution has always been for the user to pay a small
royalty to the media publisher for every byte sent. Instead of buying
whole documents, this allows the user continually to pick and choose on
line. This is necessary in a hypermedia world, since the user will
typically not buy whole publications, but move and ramble unpredictably.
The royalty is paid automatically at the instant of delivery, only and
exactly for the portion sent.
- This in turn means that any publisher in our system may quote any
other publisher freely since the "quotation" is a pointer to the
original publication. The user automatically sends for the quotation
from the original publisher, paying the royalty to the original
Material which is virtually included in this way, from one document to
another, we call transcluded, and this form of quoting in a new
published document we call transpublication.
Anyone is free to transpublish anything since it still belongs to the
original publisher and stays in the original publisher's storage space.
And the original publisher gets the royalty on the portions which are
- THE COPYRIGHT SOLUTION
- For all participants within the Xanadu network, this cleans up the
- Nothing is misquoted.
- Nothing is quoted out of context (since original context is
immmediately available: the customer has the address of the portion in
its original setting).
- Royalty is automatic to the original publisher.
- Credit is automatic to the original author or authors.
Everything may be freely re-used and quoted anywhere in our network in
this manner. Its publication on our network includes permission for
We believe this will be the universal solution to the copyright issue in
our time and that others operating in this computer multimedia area do
not yet understand this.
- OPEN HYPERMEDIA PUBLISHING
- We call the whole system of publication "open hypermedia publishing"
because anyone can link to, and re-use, materials of any kind throughout
the network. We believe that Xanadu Open Hypermedia Publishing is the
publishing medium of the future, combining all forms of media -- text,
graphics, audio and music, video, simulations, data structures -- into
tomorrow's new information world.
Explaining it quickly
- Xanadu is a system for the network sale of documents with automatic
royalty on every byte.
- The transclusion feature allows quotation of fragments of any size
with royalty to the original publisher.
- This is an implementation of a connected literature.
- It is a system for a point-and-click universe.
- This is a completely interactive docuverse.
"Xanadu: The Information Future" was compiled from the writings of Ted
Nelson by Katherine Phelps of Xanadu Australia, PO Box 4234,
Croydon Hills VIC 3136, Australia. Email:
"Xanadu" is a trade and service mark of Xanadu On-Line
Publishing, 3020 Bridgeway #295, Sausalito CA 94965 USA. Copyright (c)
1994 Xanadu Australia and Xanadu On-Line Publishing.