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Where the web went wrong
- To: xanadu@xxxxxxxxxx
- Subject: Where the web went wrong
- From: Joseph Osako <scholr@xxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sat, 13 Nov 1999 10:18:49 -0800
- Cc: <bedhan@xxxxxxxx>,suman@xxxxxxxxx,ben@xxxxxxxxxx
- Reply-to: xanadu@xxxxxxxxxx
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I've been thinking about the real problems with the web, and what the
differences between it and Xanadu are. I think that I can sum up (in
a very rough manner) the real philosophical issues at hand as a set
of principles I thought of:
Creativity - The user must always be free to add new content.
Linking - Links are content. The user must be free to create a new
link between any two data which they can access, and use any link
that is accessible to them.
Uniqueness - There must be exactly one permanent logical source
(i.e., address) for a given datum or piece of content, with all
mirror copies being treated as a single source. Copying is used only
in the process of presentation, and local copies are must not be
Presentation - The user must be free to experience any content that
they have access to in any manner of presentation they choose, in any
form of presentation possible for the content.
Rearrangement - The user must be free to experience any content that
they have access to in as many different presentations as they
Intrusion - The user must not be forced to experience content that
they haven't chosen to experience (e.g., advertisements, spam).
Transparency - The user must not be required to know source of
content (that is, the process of accessing content shouldn't require
Tracking - The user must always be able to determine the source of
Ownership - The system must always be able to determine the ownership
of content. The owner must have the option of anonymity from the
Control - The creator of content must be able to specify exactly who
is and is not able to legitimately experience the content, and under
what restrictions (i.e., age limits) and requirements (i.e., license
agreements, royalties, user memberships).
OK, I've overdone it with the passive voice, but it fits the pseudo-
RFC language I'm using. I'll also be the first one to admit that the
word 'content' is overused here, but the alternatives - data,
information, knowledge - don't seem to cover all cases (is a song
data?). Unfortunately, 'content' is even more widely used in the
industry, where it seems to refer to material completely *lacking* in
content (i.e., ads, eye candy of various kinds, popup-windows-all-
over-the-place). Can anyone suggest a better term?
The real point is this: while Xanadu has been carefully designed to
meet all of these needs, the WWW falls down on every one of them.
Adding content is unnecesarily restricted - oh, its easy enough, but
it requires the user to go through several time consuming steps along
the way. You cannot just add a note to an existing document; you have
to make a whole new document of your own, add in the addresses by
hand, and post it on to your own web site (you do have web storage,
don't you?), which then is still only accessible if you know about it
ahead of time - to someone reading the page you were commenting on,
iot may as well not exist. Adding new links visible from someone
else's document is forbidden. Web designers - or site owners, such as
Geocities or Yahoo - can force you to wade through an indefinite
number of advertisements and pop-up windows just to find out if what
you want is even on the page. Presentation is determined entirely by
the author of the page and the browser used to view it, with no
choice on the part of the user. Neither ownership rights nor
responsibilities are tracked, and access control is for the most part
all-or-nothing. Worst of all, the documents are treated as seperate,
distinct things, isolated from each other despite the rather crude
linkage system. You can move between documents, but you cannot
combine or rearrange them in a meaningful fashion. You lose the flow
of ideas in the fixed presentation. The Xanadu design, when finally
implemented, not only solves these problems, but also ones found in e-
mail, net news, and several other 'seperate' areas.
Please let me know what you think of this.
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Programmer Analyst, Operating Systems Designer, Notational Engineer