Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The "web" time forgot

I often rail against the common misconceptions used when describing the internet and the world wide web. Users do not often differentiate between the two but in truth they are two separate entities. The internet supports the web, the web could not survive without the internet but the internet could operate without the web. Think of the internet as the computer and the web an application running on it. Simplistic surely, but there is a distinction. Ok, that being said, Barry sends in this article from the New York Times describing visionary Paul Otlet's description of an interconnection of devices that would allow users to look up all manners of documents anywhere in the world. Not in the 80s or the 50s but In 1934, Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or “electric telescopes,” as he called them) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. Although Otlet’s proto-Web relied on a patchwork of analog technologies like index cards and telegraph machines, it nonetheless anticipated the hyperlinked structure of today’s Web. Otlet’s vision hinged on the idea of a networked machine that joined documents using symbolic links. While that notion may seem obvious today, in 1934 it marked a conceptual breakthrough.

click the title to go to the complete article. There is a snippet of the film "The Man Who Wanted to Classify the World" that sounds like a manual for setting up the web in the 90s not the 30s. Facinating!

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