The Web That Wasn't





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Published on Oct 26, 2007

Google Tech Talks
October, 23 2007


For most of us who work on the Internet, the Web is all we have ever really known. It's almost impossible to imagine a world without browsers, URLs and HTTP. But in the years leading up to Tim Berners-Lee's world-changing invention, a few visionary information scientists were exploring alternative systems that often bore little resemblance to the Web as we know it today. In this presentation, author and information architect Alex Wright will explore the heritage of these almost-forgotten systems in search of promising ideas left by the historical wayside.

The presentation will focus on the pioneering work of Paul Otlet, Vannevar Bush, and Doug Engelbart, forebears of the 1960s and 1970s like Ted Nelson, Andries van Dam, and the Xerox PARC team, and more recent forays like Brown's Intermedia system. We'll trace the heritage of these systems and the solutions they suggest to present day Web quandaries, in hopes of finding clues to the future in the recent technological past.

Speaker: Alex Wright
Alex Wright is an information architect at the New York Times and the author of Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages. Previously, Alex has led projects for The Long Now Foundation, California Digital Library, Harvard University, IBM, Microsoft, Rollyo and Sun Microsystems, among others. He maintains a personal Web site at http://www.alexwright.org/

Comments • 29

Such a waste of the lecture if the audience (at Google, on top of it) could not understand what two-way links are about. The reply is pretty dumb: have the links at the browser level ? Also, how condescending can you get when you are talking about Ted Nelson ? Two way links are about a shared knowledge. If you are so self-centred that you cannot imagine sharing knowledge with another human being, try imagining sharing knowledge with yourself. Two-way links will immediately reflect the changes made in one object to reflect onto another. What is needed to build on the scale of the internet is a versioning system, something like git. But this doesn't solve all the problems that Ted Nelson identified 40 years ago. The fundamental problem with git (or SVN, or any other versioning system) is that they maintain versions at file level, and files are organized into directories. What we need is versioning at a conceptual level.
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Bilal Heuser
I really enjoyed watching this video about the web because it goes into great detail about how it developed and how many people contributed to it's foundations. Today, we are truly standing on the shoulders of giants ...
Very real, search youtube for The Mother of All Demos.
Before you blame google, you must blame AOL. Before you blame any individual company, you must blame the system. If you blame the system, you blame humanity. It's not that simple. The vision may stay alive, but although we have more powerful processing technology every year, the closest we got is Wikipedia...
And that's why we have to start pyramid building...
This is just incredible. I love this lecture. This is the type of stuff I used to look forward to on the Research Channel.
Antoine Carré
For more information about Paul Otlet please look at this movie on mementoproduction.be
All these utopian schemes for the universal diffusion of all human knowledge! All brought to absolutely nothing by the influence of the Disney Corporation, which must extend copyright until the heat death of the sun in order to protect their iconic talking rat. Poor Paul Otlet! Hitler goosesteps in and throws away his card collection and Sonny Bono - Sonny Bono, for Christ's sake! - kicks over his gravestone
a guy who wrote a book about web history and says "web 2.0" without refering to the bbs era, loses points in my book. and he seems to define the web as only being the network after mosaic, even though the web had been in existence for longer than that, and that the internet is something far beyond your web browser, though hg wells was right, STORM the first self defending autonomous botnet, first lifeform of the web era.
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