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Web philosophy and history

From: Vonnie <vonnie@asylum.sf.ca.us>
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 1995 10:31:52 -0400
Message-Id: <199504271431.KAA00639@asylum.sf.ca.us>
To: www-talk@w3.org
I'm writing an article about the Web for a magazine called
"Computers in Physics".

Sure I can talk about the different browsers and sites, but
I'd like to get some perspective on the historical attitude of
the Web's designers towards supporting physics on the Web:

As I understand it (and I'm hoping you all will tell
me if I'm wrong -- that's why I'm posting here) the Web was
originally designed to help the high-energy physicists at CERN to
collaborate with others across the net. The original browser 
allowed annotation of documents, so that the Web was suited to
joint authorship of documents rather than publishing (two-way 
communication rather than one-way).
   But the first NCSA Mosaic didn't offer annotation. It
did offer a sufficiently spiffy GUI that use of the Web 
for entertainment and tech support (and marketing) has exploded.
Which is fine, but the current version of HTML and currently
available tools leave some things to be desired for 
disseminating physics information over the Web: like 
support for tables, Greek letters, and math symbols.
   Future versions of HTML may help, but meanwhile the 
dominant Web culture seems to have other priorities (not
least of which appears to be turning HTML into a page 
description language, and making secure connections). Also
HTML appears to be becoming Balkanized (I'm thinking about
the features supported only by Netscape and about Mathbrowser),
so who knows what'll happen to future development of HTML?

So what is a physicist to do? At the moment, I can 
collaborate via e-mail and run latex2html to get in-line GIFs,
but that's really not optimal. I haven't tried Mathbrowser
-- I'd like to talk by email with anyone who has. 

Also, I'd like to know what's cooking now that might 
benefit physicists in general?

vonnie@asylum.sf.ca.us		vonnie@tiac.net
Received on Thursday, 27 April 1995 10:31:56 UTC

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