Reinventing the Web
John Markoff wrote a really good Jan 11 2009 New York Times profile, In Venting, a Computer Visionary Educates on Ted Nelson and his new book, Geeks Bearing Gifts: How the Computer World Got This Way (available on Lulu.
I was one of the skeptics who thought that the World Wide Web with its fragile one-way links would never take off as a global hypertext platform.
The idea that any sensible person would rely on a global hypertext system where links on one computer pointed at locations on another computer which would break whenever the remote computer was unilaterally moved, renamed, taken off line or abandoned seemed absurd.
The idea that you would have no way to know what incoming links would break when editing or refactoring content seemed just as bad.
The Word Wide Web protocols looked like they would work for relatively small cooperative groups like CERN who could keep things from breaking by having shared goals, and using peer pressure plus out of band communication to keep distributed content alive.
Actually that intuition was pretty good, because the World Wide Web took off in a direction based on other incentives compatible with those assumptions - and grew like crazy because unlike alternatives, it was was simple, massively scalable, cheap and eliminated the need for centralized control.
1) The Web became a distributed publishing medium, not the fabric for distributed editing and collaboration that Tim Berners-Lee and others envisioned.
2) Search engines spanned the simple Web.
3)People and organizations learned how to converse and collaborate over the Web by making it easy to create addressable content others could link to.
4) Search engines, syndication and notification engines built over the Web's simple, scalable protocols connected the Web in ways that I don't think anyone really anticipated - and work as independent and competing distributed systems, making rapid innovation possible.
Tim Berners-Lee made an inspired set of tradeoffs.
I believe it's possible to provide what TBL calls "reasonable boundaries" for sharing sensitive personal or organizational data without breaking basic W3C addressable content protocols that makes linking and Web scale search valuable.
As TBL said in a Jan 2013 interview: “The web isn’t about just sharing everything, destroying privacy… [but] if I want to share something with you it shouldn’t be the technology that gets in the way.
So when people ask what will deliver two-way links, fine grain comments and tagging, traceable transclusion and the promise of the Semantic Web, I suggest an approach which layers these hypertext capabilities over the basic Web in way that exposes readable content which is absolutely compatible with the basic Web for all readers and existing engines.
Offer seamless collaborative editing, traceability, semantic search and other capabilities by extending the hypertext editing engines to support new layered protocols and transparently downsample richer models to deliver basic Web content to clients who use basic Web protocols.
I'm sure that won't satisfy Ted, but before a sea change in the basic structure of the Web - which is what Nelson and other's global visions require - I believe you'll have to be satisfied with stable islands in the Web's storm tossed sea and protocols that support robust connections among islands.
I believe it's even possible to implement Ted's micropayment transclusion model as a layered protocol.
I also believe that Enterprise 2.
Traction TeamPage was designed from the start to use layered principles, working with and over the Web without sacrificing (internal) two-way links, paragraph grain comments, tagging and relationships, content journaling, spaces with role based borders, and other capabilities that match and better capabilities of classic hypertext systems.
I hope that the evolution of Enterprise 2.
Update 14 Jul 2014: See Reinventing the Web II for follow on discussion and analysis.
Building pleasant and stable islands in a storm-tossed sea
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I originally titled this post "Re: In Venting the Web" - but chickened out - grl