Hypertext creator says structure of World Wide Web 'completely wrong'

Ted Nelson slams 'traditional' IT industry, calls Microsoft, Apple, Linux 'exactly the same'

Ted Nelson claims the structure of the Web is too complex and not a visual as it could be. [By Dgies (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons]

Ted Nelson claims the structure of the Web is too complex and not a visual as it could be. [By Dgies (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons]

The creator of hypertext has criticised the design of the World Wide Web, saying that Tim Berners-Lee’s creation is “completely wrong”, and that Windows, Macintosh and Linux have “exactly the same” approach to computing.

Ted Nelson, founder of first hypertext project, Project Xanadu, told Techworld Australia the structure of the Web is "totally archaic".

“They got the World Wide Web completely wrong,” he said. “It is a strange, distorted, peculiar and difficult limited system... the browser is built around invisible links - you can see something to click on but you’ve got nowhere else to go.”

Nelson said the structure of the Web is not the only thing built badly, with with the major players in the operating system space “all the same”.

“I don’t say that mine is the only right answer, but there’s only one game in town - Macintosh, Windows and Unix are exactly alike,” he said. “People are being lobotomised by the current format of documents and I hope to change that.”

While IT companies like Microsoft and Apple project an image of innovation and creativity, Nelson said they are basing their work on traditional concepts.

“Whereas many people consider the computing field to be radical and new, I consider it to be highly traditional and the traditions hide behind the appearance of being radical and new.

“Windows and Macintosh’s thin veneer makes people think that they are in control of the device,” he said. “But it’s like being given plush toys to play with rather than having control over the structure of a device.”

An example of where Nelson believes traditional computing is being used today is in the structure of files and documents.

“Computing is made up of files and directories and that’s a tradition left behind from the 1940s that no one questions,” he said. “Another tradition is that one file equals one document.”

Rather than having faith in IT teams to move away from a traditional approach, Nelson said the drive for change will come from the advanced users.

“The CIO would not embrace it - the user would embrace it. The people who run the technology the last thing they want is something new to deal with,” he said. “As with most things put into corporate systems, it would be driven by user demand.”

Nelson’s philosophy toward computing is widely reported on being that a user interface should be so simple that in an emergency, a beginner is able to understand it within ten seconds.

“[My approach] would be entirely different from today's documents where you look at one page at a time and you can see a ribbon or beam connecting documents together,” he said. “Having to refer to a paragraph and a sentence in an e-mail is just so barbaric when you could just strike it out and make the connection between sentences.”

Follow Lisa Banks on Twitter: @CapricaStar

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Tags operating systemstim berners-leeWorld Wide WebProject XanaduHypertextTed Nelson

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