Note — Dec 06, 2020

Hyperland, Intermedia, and the Web That Never Was

Oh, the world that could have been! A trip down memory lane, looking at a variety of hypertext projects of the 80s and 90s, a Douglas Adams doc, Douglas Englebart, Ted Nelson, and into more details with Nicole Yankelovich on IRIS and the vision for Intermedia.

The cyberspace Adams imagines is not even online. Rather, it’s something that never properly came to exist: an open framework for moving through a body of knowledge, bending to the curiosities of a trailblazing traveler. […]

Intermedia proposed that all those activities could be connected. As its name suggests, Intermedia was plural: it included InterText, a word processor, InterDraw, a drawing tool, Interpix, for looking at scanned images, InterSpect, a three-dimensional object viewer, and InterVal, a timeline editor. Together, these five applications formed an information environment, a flexible housing for whatever corpus of documents a scholar might want to consult. […]

Five years before the arrival of the World Wide Web, Intermedia empowered its users to create hyperlinks between their own documents. Viewed as a whole, these links formed an Intermedia “Web.” Distinct from the Web as we know it today, an Intermedia Web was a map of paths. […]

“There were all of these naysayers, but I don't think that any of us ever doubted that what we were doing was the future. And it turned out that it was.”