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Where the web went wrong

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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 
user intervention).

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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J Osako
Programmer Analyst, Operating Systems Designer, Notational Engineer