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Friday, 17 April, 1998, 19:34 GMT 20:34 UK
Re-inventing the Web - by its creators
WWW7 Brisbane Internet Conference
Feel like starting over
There are two kinds of people when it comes to the Internet, those who think it's marvellous and those who think it's a drastic mistake. Those are the words of Ted Nelson, who coined the terms hypertext and hypermedia in 1965, speaking at the annual World Wide Web conference (WWW7) in Brisbane, Australia from where Chris Nuttall reports.

Ted Nelson says he belongs in both camps and describes the World Wide Web as "the minimum concession of hypertext - long pages with thin flimsy links which snap at the slightest strain."

Ted Nelson
Ted Nelson "in both camps"
He says it is an "elegant simplification", which needed to be followed up with a little clean up. "But trying to fix html is like trying to graft arms and legs onto a hamburger."

His speech was followed by a panel session, "If we could do it over again", featuring himself, James Gosling, developer of the Java programming language, Robert Cailliau, co-founder of the Web, and Paul Saffo, director of the Institute for the Future.

God had it easy

All spoke of the difficulties of reinventing or controlling something once it was in the public domain. Robert Cailliau revealed that World Wide Web was only a working title and was difficult to pronounce in many languages, but the name had stuck from its first draft publication.

"The reason God was able to create heaven and earth in six days was that he did not have an installed base," said Ted Nelson.

Gates is a genius

Inevitably, questions were asked about Bill Gates' influence. "I think Bill is one of the top three business geniuses of this century", said Paul Saffo, "He is not a technological genius, but he is technologically agnostic, he can be extraordinarily responsive to the innovations of others."

"He is in charge of a big company, which is run by someone who understands all the technologies," said Ted Nelson. "I think the degree of integration in Microsoft software is excellent. Current software paradigms are asinine but at least Bill has integrated them."

James Gosling
James Gosling - Java's mastermind
Gimme more bandwidth

Asked about what would be the enduring problems of the Internet, James Gosling said there would never be enough bandwidth. Ted Nelson said "The same as they are now", Robert Cailliau said we would always have to cope with information overload because the resistors were our eyes and ears.

On the next revolution that would come, Ted Nelson concluded: "The key point about the next new thing is that people in the old paradigm won't recognise it. As Swift said: 'If a true genius arrives, the dunces will be against him.'"

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