Re: Not a www-html matter (Re: Upgrading the news URL)

Dan Fabulich (
Tue, 11 Mar 1997 18:15:08 -0800

Message-ID: <>
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997 18:15:08 -0800
From: Dan Fabulich <>
To: Albert Lunde <>
Subject: Re: Not a www-html matter (Re: Upgrading the news URL)

It's clear that my suggestion needs a great deal more explication and
defense.  I had hoped that the method and its merits would be obvious,
but I can see that I was mistaken, and that they do need to be explained
in more detail.

Albert Lunde wrote:

> > Part of the advantage of the system I proposed is that it wouldn't
> > require a new NNTP extension.  The NNTP server could send the entire
> > body of the message to the reader, letting the reader sort it out.
> > This would still save bandwidth because the quoted text wouldn't have
> > to be sent out to the whole Internet, rather the whole article would be
> > sent once from the server to the newsreader.  Eventually a NNTP
> > extension might be helpful to conserve bandwidth even further, but it's
> > not necessary for this system to work.

> I don't understand the statement above. How is sending the whole article
> to a newsreading client going to save anything but display of text
> on the screen?
> ...
> Do you mean that quoted text would not be included in followups, but
> transcluded into them via your URL scheme? This would require
> changing _every_ news client in existence (no small feat) and
> fetching multiple articles for every message displayed.

Yes, that's basically it.  Allow me to defend such a system.

First, this system WOULD save bandwidth, by virtue of the fact that
quoted articles would only be re-transmitted between the most local
server and the reader, rather than tens of thousands of times as the
quoted sections are flung across Usenet.

Updating the news clients would be easier than you think, because many
news readers double as web browsers.  So as people upgrade their web
browsers to accomodate the latest update in HTML, they will also be
upgrading their news readers.  Other news readers would soon accomodate
such changes as well, as the transclusion process catches on.  So
rather than upgrading every newsreader everywhere all at the same time,
most would evolve in the regular process of upgrading software.  This
process would be very slow, I grant you, but once it started, it would
finish itself.  (Stylesheets and server-side image mapping were far more
ambitious than what I'm suggesting.)

A system like this has a great deal of merit.  For more information on
classical arguments for hypertext systems, take a look at:
or, for a lighter version, try:

From which I quote:

"In a hypertext publishing medium, critics can be more effective for 
less effort. Those who wish to can write a critical note and publish it
immediately. ... They can avoid describing the context and the
objectionable points because they can link directly to both. They can
quote [a known fact] by linking to it, rather than restating it; if its
relevance is clear enough, they needn't even write an explanatory note.
And not only is all this easier than in paper text, but the reward is
greater: publication is assured and prompt, and links will show the
criticism to readers while they are reading the erroneous document,
rather than months later."

"In short, criticism will be easier, faster, and far more effective; as
a consequence, it will also be more abundant. Abundant, effective
criticism will decrease the amount of misinformation in circulation
(thereby decreasing the generation of further misinformation).
Abundant, effective criticism of criticism will improve its quality as
well. Reflection on the ramifying consequences of this suggests that
the improvement in the overall quality of critical discussion could be

"Next time you see a lie being spread or a bad decision being made out
of sheer ignorance, pause, and think of hypertext."

This is an argument for fine-grained backlinking hypertext in general,
but just by implementing my suggestion, Usenet could eventually become
the backbone for this system.  Usenet ALREADY incorporates backlinking
through the References: field, but it can only link in a linear thread 
by Following-Up to other documents, and then only to the entire
article, not to particular parts of the article.  By changing the URL
in this way, any news article could link to any part of any other
article, vastly altering debates.  The process would be slow, but it
would be worth the effort.

     -He who laughs last thinks slowest-