Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Abandon—and move where? And why?

"Abandon" doesn't mean "replace": it means "move on". Building a hypertext system with similar functionality as the Web, but incompatible with it, is a doomed endeavour—no question about it. However, a platform that offers new features, while still providing Web access from within it, can reach critical mass. The "killer app" is computer-mediated realtime human interaction—such as talking to each other. (If you think that's not important, here is a data point: Skype has 200 million downloads.)

A new platform will bring a new perspective. Forget the client-server document view, think of being inside a shared world. (If you like 3D interfaces, the world will be 3D; if you like 2D interfaces, the world will be 2D.) It's not in a window—it's full screen all the time, it is your home environment and not a guest. The system shows objects and avatars, and users can do things that do not fit the Web model of interaction at all. Collaborating in realtime or playing games on the Web is difficult to impossible; in the new medium it will be natural.

One of the objects in the system is an information access device. This device is a computer with a Web browser. By zooming in on it you can access all of the World Wide Web and run old-fashioned applications. (Here's how it looks in Croquet.) You see a computer within a world, not a world within a computer.

In short, the paradigm will change from Memex to Metaverse—a Metaverse in which you can still access the Memex, along with new ways of interacting with humans and information.

Services like There and World of Warcraft represent special-purpose, commercial, closed worlds. Just like online services CompuServe and GEnie were special-purpose, commercial, and closed—before the arrival of the Web, which made them practically irrelevant. A general-purpose, non-profit, and open platform is to come next—bringing with it the equivalents of HTML, HTTP, Mosaic and Netscape.

To truly succeed, the new platform must incorporate solutions to all of the Web's paradoxes. It is crucial that we get the initial design right, since fixing it incrementally might not be possible once backwards compatibility becomes important again. If we do get it right, the Web's problems will not disappear—but they'll gradually fade from importance as the new platform is adopted.

2 Comments:

Blogger Scott said...

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12:39 PM  
Blogger unregistered text offender said...

I can think of one reoson to create a new platform incompatible with the internet which is that it would give those who choose to a chance to get away from the large internet companys such as yahoo and google who seem to be acting in an increasingly dictatorial manner such as banning websites that they don't like allthough they don't contravene any laws, and even worse than that they [yahoo] have callaborated with another dictatorship the chinese in giving them the name and details of a dissedent who was publishing a pro-democracy web site an action that cullimated in said dissedent getting something like twenty years.

6:25 AM  

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