Monday, January 03, 2005

The stagnant information architecture of the web: ten years of stasis

Reviving Advanced Hypertext (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)
...In 1995, I listed fifteen hypertext features that were missing from Web browsers. None of these ideas have been implemented in the ten years since, except for Firefox's search box and Internet Explorer's search sidebar.

Is there any hope that the next decade will bring more progress? I think so. For one, most of the ideas mentioned here are rich sources of user interface patents, which offer a sustainable competitive advantage. (I invented at least five potential patents while writing this article, but didn't bother filing because I'm not in the business of suing infringers; a big company could rack up the patents if so inclined.)

The last ten years were a black hole: much attention was focused on doomed attempts at making the Web more like television. Hopefully, the next decade will focus instead on empowering users and giving us the features we need to master a worldwide information space.

I don't think these are Nielsen's ideas -- Berners-Lee wanted bidirectional links & collaboration from day one. On the other hand, I have Nielsen's book and he did a good job of summarizing the state of the art back in 1995. There's been zero progress since then. (I remember Hyper-G, a Gopher derivative .. for example. Jon Udell has also written about this.)

He's absolutely right that the information infrastructure of the web has stagnated, but that was inevitable once Microsoft took monopolistic control of the browser. Perhaps Firefox, Google and Amazon will lead us out of the darkness.

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