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Re: HI. Wow. Thanks. [this version OK for publishing]
- To: xanadu@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Subject: Re: HI. Wow. Thanks. [this version OK for publishing]
- From: "Ray Ozzie" <ray@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 19 May 1997 16:31:39 -0400
- Reply-to: xanadu@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Sender: xanni@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Hello, Ted. Thanks for the reply.
It's interesting to hear that Xanadu is starting over. Presumably you're
starting with the Internet and distributed computing as a new technology
I don't know your feelings on the matter, but I have mixed feelings about
what the Web has wrought. On one hand, I - as you - had dreamt of a day
when "the masses" would use computers transparently to access vast
information stores and share things with one another. But it hasn't quite
turned out the way that I'd have anticipated or liked.
When creating Notes, we focused our efforts on building a collaboration
system intended for business professionals - not consumers - and as you
know, it has largely been a commercial success. Although not all Notes
users (about 12 million of them as I type this) take daily advantage of the
full spectrum of the collaborative application capabilities of the product,
I have indeed been very pleased with the "read/write" ratio of the average
user. That is, Notes users are most commonly "writers" as well as being
"readers." In addition to accessing information posted by others, the
typical Notes user also makes many contributions - many compositions - as a
part of the daily and productive use of Notes in their jobs. We must've
done something right in our initial choice of metaphors in order to have
made this happen, whether on purpose or through serendipity, and I feel
very fortunate that we did.
When the Web came along, we were very excited indeed! The Web brought with
it the potential of a standard, multi-vendor way of doing lots of things
that we had done in Notes .. a bit competitively threatening to be sure,
but truly very exciting to me because it could potentially catalyze the
creation interoperable products spanning well beyond the business sector in
which we are so prevalent. As the Web evolved, I wondered if broad
application of these concepts would finally produce a world-wide
collaboration network of thinking minds. I surely hoped so!
But, disappointingly, it hasn't.
Instead, the Web has turned out to be a medium that is clearly skewed
toward the broadcasting metaphor of "readers" and "publishers," most always
having identifiable information "providers" and "consumers." Due to the
fact that the this metaphor was established very early on, and was
supported by weak technology (no user identification & authentication, no
authoring/editing environment, no document database or any organizational
metaphor to speak of, and the name "browser" itself!) people got used to
the environment as a static environment. And there it sits.
Even for all its glory and tremendous utility and value, it stagnates from
the perspective of effective collaboration. Is there hope?
I'm not so sure. The first problem is that, in my belief, nothing
successful can ever escape its original base usage metaphor. Won't the
browser always be viewed as a browser, regardless of how many new features
you pack into it? I surely won't change my view of television, even if
every c.2001 TV powers up with the Windows splash screen and has an air
mouse. And I surely won't change my already-internalized view of the PC,
even when it can serve as a high-definition TV. Metaphors stick.
Furthermore, I sometimes wonder if effective collaboration was too
aggressive a goal for such a global communications environment. In
general, because not all people envision themselves as "thinkers" or
"philosophers," not all people will choose to be "contributors." It's just
human nature. Sure, we're social animals, but perhaps life has become so
complicated that people just want and need relaxation. Contribution draws
risks and challenges. Perhaps if the Web metaphors had been more
read/write to begin with, it wouldn't have taken off as swiftly and
smoothly as it did ..? Maybe a truly effective collaboration network can
only exist in closed environments, e.g. a corporation, a special interest
group, etc. Maybe people only feel safe identifying themselves in closed
groups, lurking anonymously elsewhere.
If there is hope, however, it is that "The Internet" is not the same thing
as "The Web." New tools, new metaphors.
Anyway, I'm just rambling. Hope that things are going well for you in your
new attempt, and that you've found a stimulating environment in which to
explore your ideas...