Mr. Nelson anticipated and inspired the World Wide Web, and he coined the term “hypertext,” which embodies the idea of linking a web of objects including text, audio and video.
In his self-published new book, “Geeks Bearing Gifts: How the Computer World Got This Way” (available on lulu.com), Mr. Nelson, 71, takes stock of the computing world. The look back by this forward-thinking man is not without its bitterness. The Web, after all, can be seen as a bastardization of his original notion that hyperlinks should point both forward and backward.
Nelson got a lot right, and much of his vision is finally coming to fruition, e.g., bidirectional and typed (e.g., annotation, association, and composition) links (information item relationships) and transclusion, although Nelson wasn’t personally involved in much beyond the initial vision phase, in terms of today’s widely-used tools. Read the full Markoff article (and also seriously consider reading his book about Engelbart et al) for insights into just how far ahead of their times Engelbart and Nelson were, four decades ago.
In some respects, hypertext and collaboration have much in common – both have been around for a long time, yet in many ways, in terms of mainstream impact, both are only now hitting their strides. Indeed, it’s the combination of collaboration and hypertext, in information models such as wikis, that is making Web-centric content and collaboration relevant to a global audience.