Excursions by Amit Gawande

Freeing the Web from the Browser

The Web is, without a doubt, the most powerful research tool currently available to man. No longer must researchers comb through endless indices and catalogues to find what they are looking for.

In spite of its tremendous improvements on what came before, however, the Web is frankly a disappointment in comparison to what it could be. Most saddening, perhaps, is the way in which the Web constrains the use of links. For example: although the link is the primary form of reference on the Web, underpinning the tangle of connections that make the system so useful, the ability to create new links is a privilege granted only to content producers. The vast majority of those interested in a piece of work are merely readers, unable to contribute, only to consume.

Even though a bit unrealistic, this work by Joe Savage around open hypermedia is a fascinating exploration of what happens when you take link-based web systems outside of the web browsers. The possibilities are endless as it opens up a completely new paradigm to hyper linking — this takes it across all apps.

And therein lies the biggest friction for this concept. Expecting every app to support this is too much to ask from the developers who are already running thin meeting the changing expectations of the primary platform they are built for.

The simple goal of bringing annotations to the web (which should address some of the concerns the open hypermedia attempts to handle) itself has been attempted so many times, but has failed to stick.

Anyway, for the research community, the prototype system as demonstrated below should work wonders. And they might welcome this. But it is a long shot to expect this to be implemented and accepted anytime soon.

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