Michal Slupski

@mslupski1

An odd bit in the history of the internet — Xanadu

Today, when I was diving into weird content online, I eventually stumbled on an article about Xanadu.

The homepage of Ted Nelson’s Project Xanadu

Those who are better informed already know what it is.

From my understanding of it, it is a content delivery system proposed by Ted Nelson in the 1960’s, which he’s been working on ever since. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, widely renowned as the founding father of the World Wide Web, adopted some of Ted’s ideas in the Hypertext Project Proposal. The proposal that had served as a cornerstone for the World Wide Web.

If it were Ted Nelson’s ideas that had reached their fullest potential, and not Tim Berner Lee’s ideas, you would’ve been able to see both of the documents I had linked similarly to this low quality mock-up I made:

Ultimately the idea behind Xanadu is an interconnected world of documents, in which you can always reach the source of the information that you’re reading.

Basically, with Xanadu, one document would allow you to view all source documents without jumping links and opening new browser tabs.

A bit differently from how the Web works at the moment.

However — it turns out that Steve Wozniak, the pioneer of the personal computer revolution, is a fan of Ted Nelson.

It also turns out that the allmighty Woz doesn’t like some of the things which giant internet companies are doing with the web.

After watching a few videos from Ted Nelson’s YouTube channel, I found one that was particularly interesting.

In it, he talks about abusive online ads which block your access to content, and admits that we need a lot of bright minds to save the internet.

The bit in mention starts after the 17:00 minute mark (the linked video should automatically start around that time), and it only takes around 2 minutes:

It’s an intriguing take on how big business alters the value of products, based on what happened to one popular AI-based product after it’s been bought-out.

Big Tech

There are many sceptics and conspiracy theorists out there who would want you to believe that big companies want to control your mind.

And with the recent Cambridge Analytica + Facebook scandal, many sane people have come to realise that it might not be crazy-talk after all.

Even Sir Tim Berners-Lee admits that his creation has become so dangerous that it can be weaponised against us, and he calls for caution in his recently published open letter.

He didn’t drop the letter out of the blue. It was published on March 12th, 2018, because this date marked the 29th birthday of the World Wide Web.

One of the challenges he wrote about is making the web work for people. Sir Tim admits that big tech is not going to do it for us.

So who else is there to save us, if not the companies that we’d entrusted so much of our information, money, and free time with?

Maybe we can help ourselves.

We just need to learn — about the infrastructure of the internet, about the hardware that stores our data and hosts the websites and apps we use, and about the software and algorithms that have already started to influence our daily lives.

Why? The reason is simple, and Steve Wozniak said it best in the lecture above:

“We need a lot more bright people in the future.”

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