Current hypertext model only meant to be temporary

July 25th, 2006 by Juan Garcés

In an interesting letter in the New Scientist (22 July 2006, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19125610.300.html), Ted Nelson, ‘inventor’ of the term hypertext, looks back at a project designing a hypertext system at Brown University in the 1960s. He decries the currently existing hypertext model as merely the popularization of what he considered at the time as only the interim solution of said project: ‘That project dumbed down hypertext to one-way, embedded, non-overlapping links. Its broken and deficient model of hypertext became by turns the structure of the NoteCards and HyperCard programs, the World Wide Web, and XML.’ His criticism is particularly harsh towards XML: ‘It is opaque to the laypersons who deserve deep command of electronic literature and media. It gratuitously imposes hierarchy and sequence wherever it can, and is very poor at representing overlap, parallel cross-connection, and other vital non-hierarchical media structures that some people do not wish to recognise.’

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