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Re: Xanadu discussion list

> From the former perspective, it almost looks like Xanadu is an idea
> with a great future behind it.  The realities of the information systems
> marketplace have evolved around it, adopting little but the basic idea of
> the embedded link.

And thus have missed many of the other important underlying concepts which
still have unexplored value.  I don't think the former logically follows
from the latter.

> Possibly the two most successful hypertext systems today are the Microsoft
> Windows help file and the WWW, for similar reasons.  The former, because
> Microsoft made it ubiquitous on Windows platforms, and the latter because
> anyone with a machine connected to the Internet can get free software to
> access it and add to it (the success of Hypercard on the Mac was similar).

Yes.  These are lessons we will do well to learn from.  Linux is another
excellent role model.

> Of course, there are significant tradeoffs between them.  For example, one
> Windows browser, Cello, provides its online documentation by a Winhelp file;
> another, Netscape, by a set of centrally located Web pages.  People who have
> tried both tend to prefer Cello's approach, at least partly because help is
> available even when the net isn't.

This is also an excellent demonstration of the failings of the non-distributed
file system currently underlying WWW.  A simple kludge might be to add DNS
records to allow multiple servers similar to the MX record mechanism.

> We could argue ad nauseum about the technical advantages of Xanadu over
> existing systems, but it would be pretty much academic.  Practical questions
> for Xanadu include:
> - Does it provide any advantage readily perceivable by the community of
>   hypertext users, one that would lead them to spend time, effort, and bucks
>   to switch to a Xanadu-based solution?

I believe so; for this very reason other systems (notably HyperTed and Hyper-G)
are striving to provide such Xanadu hallmarks as bivisible and bifollowable
links, distributed servers and better transclusions than WWW supports.

> - Can it be implemented and marketed in a fashion that minimizes the pain of
>   adoption for the average owner of a PC and/or Unix LAN system, who may
>   already be using such things as WWW, Lotus Notes, and Winhelp?

This will be tricky, but I believe more modular operating systems (notably
Linux, OS/2, Taligent, and I believe the latest incarnations of Windows NT and
MacOS) will ease this.  Some aspects of the Xanadu system could be implemented
with a client/server design much like current WWW offerings, although to
provide the full benefits of the original Xanadu vision a new installable
filesystem would probably be necessary.

> - Are there components of its technology that can be extracted and added to
>   popular hyptertext systems, furthering the Xanadu vision in a piecemeal
>   fashion?

Yes, undoubtedly.  Obvious candidates are the business model, and
(again) bivisible and bifollowable links, proper transclusions and a
distributed file system.

> - Are there parts of the architecture that could be used to guide the 
>   evolution of of currently successful systems, thus bringing them closer to
>   the Xanadu vision?

I believe all of the parts I just mentioned can be (and in some cases are)
applied to enhance existing tools such as WWW.

> - Can its architecture be adapted to an open systems approach, in which it
>   may be used on everything from a single local machine to a WAN?

I believe not only that it can, but that it is essential that it should be.

> I'm not sure whether these are the truly crucial questions for the viability
> of Xanadu, but they're in the ballpark.

They are certainly good questions, worth considering.  Thank you.

Share and enjoy,
		*** AVATAR ***
Andrew Pam                                      avatar@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Manager, Serious Cybernetics                    avatar@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Coordinator, Xanadu Australia                   <http://www.aus.xanadu.com/>
P.O. Box 409, Canterbury VIC 3126 Australia     gopher gopher.aus.xanadu.com