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

James Aylett (sja20@hermes.cam.ac.uk)
Wed, 12 Mar 1997 02:59:48 +0000 (GMT)


Date: Wed, 12 Mar 1997 02:59:48 +0000 (GMT)
From: James Aylett <sja20@hermes.cam.ac.uk>
To: Dan Fabulich <dfab@cinenet.net>
cc: www-html@w3.org
Subject: Re: Not a www-html matter (Re: Upgrading the news URL)
In-Reply-To: <332611AC.6B09@cinenet.net>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.3.95.970312024753.31560A-100000@crystal.clare.cam.ac.uk>

On Tue, 11 Mar 1997, Dan Fabulich wrote:

> 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.)

This is my entire point - you're planning on breaking all current news
readers. I'm running trn - I have no idea what version, and I don't really
care. I have no wish to have to upgrade my news reader - and I'd have to,
because otherwise I'd miss out on half the quoted text being bandied
around. (This is, incidentally, the main reason I believe this to be the
wrong list for this discussion - I have yet to see a convincing argument
for usenet becoming another HTML-dominated system.)

> A system like this has a great deal of merit.  For more information on
> classical arguments for hypertext systems, take a look at:
[References and quotes snipped]

True, but then is the problem of usenet bandwidth really that high? I'm
prepared to stand corrected here, but I'm fairly certain that the main
bandwidth hog is the Web - if your proposal went ahead, usenet would merge
into an HTML world, and suddenly people would feel the need to links
<IMG>s and <APPLET>s inside their usenet posts, and 'smart' news readers
would suddenly spend half or more of their time getting images etc. from
across the entire network rather than just from their local news server,
thus increasing general internet congestion, but also we'd have the
unwelcome situation of news readers which couldn't cope with text/html
proper (ie: render it) being considered 'out-moded'. This isn't really the
place to start a news reader war, any more than it is the place to start a
browser war, so I'll stop there :-)

> 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.

I wonder if it would, really. I'm in favour (and I know I'll be criticised
for this) of having multiple layers, for different purposes, even if these
purposes become very small. In this case this applies because I think
Usenet is fine as it is - if you need a more sophisticated referencing
system, I'd consider it vastly more sensible to write a new one based on
the old one, and provide it as an alternative, rather than force everyone
to conform to a new standard which is going to cause problems when put
into the hands of people who don't necessarily appreciate that not
everyone has the latest software (or maybe even want to have).

In short: although your proposal did not suggest using HTML for news
posting, if more and more HTML-like features were added to news, I think
we'd see more and more people using HTML itself to post (as is already
possible from MSIE and Netscape, and probably others that I don't know
about), which is overkill.

I could be wrong. Please, someone prove me wrong. But equally so, please
don't attempt to and then prove me right :-)

Cheers,
James

-- 
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