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Re: WWW Notes [the rant]

From: Sean B. Palmer <sean@mysterylights.com>
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 2001 21:42:33 -0000
Message-ID: <007701c09218$0cfdbd80$b4c47ad5@z5n9x1>
To: "Bullard, Claude L (Len)" <clbullar@ingr.com>, <www-talk@w3.org>
> Understand that the real father of hypermedia is not Ted Nelson,
> but Douglas Englebart.

Yes, I agree with that; Doug did a lot for hypermedia - but I'm sure
everybody who is anybody realises that fact. Actually, an interesting read
is Dan Connolly's article on how close the World Wide Web has come to
Englebarts "requirements" for a HM Web:-

     An Evaluation of the World Wide Web with respect to Engelbart's
     - Daniel W. Connolly
     $Date: 2001/01/12 00:09:30 $

> Most of the hypermedia systems I worked with before
> the web are still out there working.

I didn't mean to infer that all hypermedia Web systems failed... but a lot
did. Yes, some are still going, and some perform their intended functions
very well indeed, but it is the WWW that exploded. There was an element of
"luck", right place, right time, but there was some good early design as
well. It is clear that in the first few years, the Web was very much a true
academic vision. When Mosaic came along, the bad design may have already
crept in, but Mosaic made it a lot worse... not enough thought was given on
the browsers, or the ML's, but the infrastructure was pretty good. That's
why we still have a WWW ten years later: not because of HTML, or tacky
animations, but because of HTTP, and URIs. Hopefully XML will lengthen the
lifespan even further.

> No one said the web hasn't meant progress in the medium;
> it meant money and money makes the trains run on time.

Money built the Web, and money is destroying it. It is amazing how fast it
became corrupted... I would rather have 1% of the current users if it meant
that we didn't ever hear the word "Flash".

> I dismiss claims that the WWW was the beginning
> of serious hypermedia.

It wasn't the beginning, it was the fruition of a lot of hard work, and the
start of a lot more... but is a seriously good application of hypermedia,
and it does 80% of its intended job. Some things went according to "plan",
and some didn't... some are good, some are bad. Some are double edged, like
editing HTML by hand. But still, it allowed diversification, and I think
that is what is lacking in a lot of other systems. The WWW is
decentralized, so it works.

> So write the history, Sean, but do a good job of it.

Well, the history is done now. It can't be changed, even my mis-reporting
it; but I do endeavour to do a good job. Did you see
http://infomesh.net/html/history/early/ ??? That is a good bit of detective
work... I have done a lot of ferreting around through Web history, and
found some useful bits, and some frankly worrying items as well. I tried to
report some of them in WWW Notes, but with an unbiased view. It is very
difficult to keep an unbiased view on things, because we all have cloudy
opinions, but I do try. WWW history is difficult to gather becuase it is
full of opinions, right from the very early days: there is an opinion, and
a counter opinion. Only time can tell in the end, and I think that as far
as the Web goes, "res ipsa loquitur".

> The web did not build a community. Communities converged
> on the web.

Good quote, might have to use that in the next draft :-)

> I don't expect Utopia.  Don't even want it.  Justice is something
> to want because by practice, that can be had, not to make
> heaven on earth, but to make earth as good as we can make it.

Wise words, commendable words.

Kindest Regards,
Sean B. Palmer
@prefix : <http://webns.net/roughterms/> .
[ :name "Sean B. Palmer" ] :hasHomepage <http://infomesh.net/sbp/> .
Received on Thursday, 8 February 2001 16:45:11 UTC

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