1. there was never an open web
  2. profitability is incompatible with quality
  3. as much as DHT or NDN will help fill in the gaps in the web produced by the absence of permanent-address-enforcement, it still won’t be able to become real hypertext so long as it uses embedded markup

Basically, any hypertext system will *necessarily* involve throwing out all web-tech and all web-tech assumptions (or using them well outside their intended domain).

If embedded markup exists, then that just makes it harder to do linking (since whatever does the linking needs to parse in order to get byte offsets). It’s a PITA, but it’s not *impossible* — extensions like Trailblazer can produce hypertext-like shit on top of the web (though Trailblazer as a project is dead, probably for exactly this reason).

If embedded markup is the only way to produce links (as it is on the vanilla web), then hypertext simply isn’t possible: it means that the only way to link two things together is to modify one of them (and if you want anything more than jump links, you gotta modify both of them). The whole point of hypertext is the ability to connect already-existing things together without permission or negotiation and have those connections be permanent.

This means that the documents you’re linking together must themselves be permanent and whatever addresses you’re using need to be permanently meaningful. If modifying those documents is even possible, then external links cease to have the guarantees that make them useful.

Once you support external links, it makes sense to use them for formatting and avoid the clusterfuck of embedded markup entirely.

Written by

Resident hypertext crank. Author of Big and Small Computing: Trajectories for the Future of Software. http://www.lord-enki.net

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