29 May 2005
Where the Web Went Right
Open Tech 2005 is due to feature
Ted Nelson, inventor of hypertext, on where the web went wrong. Hmm.
You see, Ted coined the term ‘hypertext’ and founded Project Xanadu (no, not the movie) in the 60s, which was based on some visionary ideas about linking, versioning, rights management and micropayments. But, as told in The Curse of Xanadu, the developers attempted far too much and were way out of their depth, so decades later the vision still isn’t realised. We all know software projects tend to miss deadlines, but that’s taking the piss.
Tim Berners-Lee kept his idea manageably simple, made good use of existing technology, built a working system and made everything freely available. Many of the web’s inherent limitations were essential to ensure its success and allow others to build on the foundations. We now have a thriving, diverse, compelling, ever-changing network of information and tools that’s mostly open and free. I still find that amazing.
Ted Nelson can RANT (scroll to the bottom) all he likes, but the beauty of software is that if you have an idea, and are able to describe and develop it in detail using code, it immediately comes to life and can demonstrate its worth. Otherwise, sadly, it’s just an idea and no one can be sure if it’d ever work well in practice. “Code up or shut up.”