Guardian.jpgA temporal web?

The semantic web is a powerful thing but it’s… well… semantic. Trying to imagine the net in the future, it becomes obvious that we’re going to need a temporal web too. Living, as we do, in the first moments of the web’s existence, we haven’t needed to think much about time. It’s as if everything that’s taken place so far all happened in a single, cataclysmic moment.

Once the web’s lifespan starts to stretch – across generations and centuries – we’re going to need an accessible historic record. Something that’s ‘online’ (as in ‘not offline in a tape library’) and preferably ‘inline’ (continuous with the current content). In this article for The Guardian I visualise this as a ‘giant rewind knob for the web’.

My example is the war in Iraq. Imagine the benefits to humanity in the future of being able to rewind to any point in the rolling popular history we call blogging and take a snapshot of the state of the war and opinion about it. More to the point, with so much information, conversation and collaboration moving onto the net, imagine a future without it.

In the article I also wonder if we, in the UK, shouldn’t be pressing the BBC to take on this task. Lots of people think the BBC’s proper role on the net should be to boost connection and participation (and there is some ambitious work going on already). Perhaps, as well as promoting communication, the Beeb ought also to be promoting recollection.

(Maybe the techies out there can tell me if this kind of work is already going on. I’m pretty sure Kahle’s Way Back Machine is going in the right direction but it’s a long way from being fine-grained enough and it certainly can’t present historic content ‘inline’)

A new library of Alexandria

In the future, there will be statues of Brewster Kahle. I never cease to be humbled by his ambition.

Technologists have promised the digital library for decades. In 1945, Vannevar Bush, who was technology adviser to several US presidents, wrote an article in The Atlantic magazine outlining how computers might one day augment libraries. Then in 1960, a young graduate called Ted Nelson got sidetracked from his masters degree in sociology at Harvard into writing text-retrieval software. He published his ideas, and coined the term “hypertext” in 1965. So in many ways the digital library is long overdue.”

Brewster Kahle, interviewed in New Scientist

He’s preserving the web – all of it – in parallel libraries of hard disks, one of which is in Alexandria. This is an unconditionally noble project, on a truly grand scale. Any arguments?

By the way, why is it New Scientist that carries interviews like this and not to the Internet press? Come to think of it, is there an Internet press?