Freeing the Web from the Browser

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.

.. The degree to which this constrains the Web is hard to overstate. Can we really expect authors to identify all salient connections from a piece of work to the wider Web?

.. One could imagine a system in which multiple sets of links could be associated with a single resource

.. connecting information together becomes a powerful tool available to all rather than a privilege granted only to content producers

.. As it turns out, these ideas aren’t new. In fact, Vannevar Bush pondered the benefits of these kinds of capabilities way back in 1945 in his visionary essay As We May Think.

There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record. The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world’s record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected.Vannevar Bush (As We May Think, 1945)

.. These ideas were also central to a movement within the hypermedia research community from the late ’80s to early ’00s known as open hypermedia.

.. Unlike the WWW, open hypermedia systems make a hard separation between hypermedia structure — such as links and transclusions

.. Links are stored completely separately from the content upon which they are to be displayed, and all hypermedia functionality — including creation of and interaction with links — is exposed via an open protocol implemented by an independent program called the ‘link server’.

..  open hypermedia systems require an astounding amount of design and engineering work, and in return offer benefits of unclear value. 

.. it’s not at all clear if the effort required to move to a potentially better solution is worth the cost.

.. what is really lacking — in my view — is research considering the human factors at play.

..  In the words of Doug Engelbart: “Any possibility for improving the effective utilization of the intellectual power of society’s problem solvers warrants the most serious consideration … man’s problem-solving capability represents possibly the most important resource possessed by a society”.


What’s under the hood of the new Brave browser?

Brave’s alternative looks standard-issue at first: there’s ad-blocking (fingerprinting protection and script blocking), support for password managers (LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password) and HTTPS Anywhere integration. It mentions anti-phishing protection. However, under the hood:

Brave currently runs an experimental automated and anonymous micro-donation system for publishers called Brave Payments.

Originally based on Bitcoin, this, it transpires, is about to be replaced by an Ethereum-based payments system called Basic Attention Tokens (BAT). When launched to fund the startup behind Brave earlier this year, BATs were seized upon by speculators who think they’ll increase in value.

25 years of HyperCard—the missing link to the Web

Before the World Wide Web did anything, HyperCard did everything.

Even before its cancellation, HyperCard’s inventor saw the end coming. In an angst-filled 2002 interview, Bill Atkinson confessed to his Big Mistake. If only he had figured out that stacks could be linked through cyberspace, and not just installed on a particular desktop, things would have been different.

“I missed the mark with HyperCard,” Atkinson lamented. “I grew up in a box-centric culture at Apple. If I’d grown up in a network-centric culture, like Sun, HyperCard might have been the first Web browser. My blind spot at Apple prevented me from making HyperCard the first Web browser.”

.. In his 1974 book, Computer Lib/Dream Machines, he defined hypertext as “forms of writing which branch or perform on request; they are best presented on computer display screens.” By simplifying the process of dispersing and accessing information, hypertext and hypermedia could liberate society from what Nelson saw as an overprofessionalized digital information elite.

.. Fearing antitrust reprisals from the government if it strayed into the software marketing business, AT&T leased UNIX to colleges and universities at bargain basement rates. Those schools, supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, built hundreds and then thousands of ARPANET “nodes” through the 1980s.

.. “We could not have created a business around Erwise in Finland then,” one of the team members explained. But other developers had also downloaded Berners-Lee’s code. These included Pei-Yuan Wei, working on UNIX X-terminals at UC Berkeley’s Experimental Computing Facility. Where did Wei derive inspiration for his “ViolaWWW” web browser? He took his lead from a program that he found fascinating, even though he did not have a Mac of his own.

“HyperCard was very compelling back then, you know graphically, this hyperlink thing,” Wei later recalled. “I got a HyperCard manual and looked at it and just basically took the concepts and implemented them in X-windows,” which is a visual component of UNIX. The resulting browser, Viola, included HyperCard-like components: bookmarks, a history feature, tables, graphics. And, like HyperCard, it could run programs.

.. Admiring all this activity was a young developer named Marc Andreesen of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois. Andreesen’s team launched Mosaic in January of 1993; it was the first browser available on PCs, Macs, and UNIX systems. Mosaic morphed into Mosaic Netscape a year later.

Not long after that, I downloaded a copy of Netscape onto a Dell PC. “Wow,” I thought, as I surfed various sites. “This looks like HyperCard.”

.. As late as August 2002, there were probably 10,000 HyperCard developers.

.. programmers for the Cyan software company originally wrote their hugely popular puzzle/adventure game Myst as a HyperCard stack.

.. When Tim Berners-Lee’s innovation finally became popular in the mid-1990s, HyperCard had already prepared a generation of developers who knew what Netscape was for.