Archive-name: xanadu/BSEG.html
Last-modified: 1994/03/17

Submission to the Broadband Services Experts Group

in response to the January 1994 Discussion Paper.

1. Nature of, and Demand for, Broadband services

The Xanadu(TM) project was founded by Ted Nelson, who invented the concepts of hypertext and hypermedia and coined the words in his 1965 ACM national conference presentation "A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing and the Indeterminate". The project aims to create and promote the creation of software to support a global distributed hypermedia filesystem in which all digitised information in the world can be efficiently stored, searched and retrieved.

This system is now emerging; the Internet and other networks are providing the necessary worldwide communications infrastructure and a variety of services are springing up at an ever-increasing rate to provide the storage, search and retrieval facilities. The software developed by Xanadu Operating Company Inc. is still unreleased, but the nearest comparable system is an Internet service inspired by Xanadu called World Wide Web (WWW).

WWW was developed at CERN (the European Particle Physics Laboratory) and client software is currently being developed at NCSA (the US National Centre for Supercomputing Applications) and the Law Institute at Cornell University, among other places. Although it is not as well designed as Xanadu, suffering from a variety of reliability and efficiency flaws and lacking many of the powerful features in Xanadu, it has nonetheless entered widespread use at an unprecedented rate.

According to the World Wide Web Wanderer, growth of WWW is currently estimated at around 3000% per annum. The demand for these kinds of services is clearly phenomenal. There are too many organizations becoming involved in WWW for me to list here, but since Telecom Australia is one of them I presume the BSEG is already aware of WWW.

The Project Xanadu (Australia) formal problem definition is:

We need a way for people to store information not as individual "files" but as a connected literature. It must be possible to create, access and manipulate this literature of richly formatted and connected information cheaply, reliably and securely from anywhere in the world. Documents must remain accessible indefinitely, safe from any kind of loss, damage, modification, censorship or removal except by the owner. It must be impossible to falsify ownership or track individual readers of any document.

This system of literature (the "Xanadu Docuverse") must allow people to create virtual copies ("transclusions") of any existing collection of information in the system regardless of ownership. In order to make this possible, the system must guarantee that the owner of any information will be paid their chosen royalties on any portions of their documents, no matter how small, whenever and wherever they are used.

The features of Xanadu are:

4. Industry Development/Export and Employment Opportunities

We believe that two new industries will arise out of these technological developments. Firstly, a service provider industry which will provide Xanalogical information storage facilities and assist users in obtaining connections to and using the global computer network.

Secondly, since everyone with computer and network access will be able to publish their information worldwide, creative artists, educators and entertainers will be able to gain unparalleled distribution and recognition for their works at minimal cost. This will be an enormous boost to the already very active Australian creative community. With such an enormous growth in available content, the other new industry being created is that of freelance critics, commentators, editors and librarians who will review the overwhelming amount of information available and assist people to choose material they will find interesting.

6. Impacts on the Australian Community

We believe that the eventual impact of these kinds of services will be enormous. Widespread access to the accumulated knowledge of humanity will revolutionise education, allowing anyone and everyone to continue educating themselves on any and all subjects throughout their lifetime. A well educated population is one of the keystones of democracy.

We also believe that Xanadu offers the most workable solution yet proposed to the problems of copyright in online services. If it becomes easier and more useful to transclude information than to copy it, the copyright holder can be paid pro-rata royalties whenever any portion of their work is accessed from anywhere in the world, regardless of the context (even when embedded in a derivative work).

It is my personal belief that the significant disparity in the amount of bandwidth required to provide text-based services and multimedia services will eventually make it more economical to provide text-based services for free rather than bother with fractional-cent accounting, especially considering the advantages of providing a minimal level of service to the entire population.

I also believe that although the government will continue to be able to sponsor the creation of Australian content, neither it nor any other entity will ultimately retain any meaningful ability to censor the free flow of information. People should have the right to self-censor or filter what they wish to view on their equipment to avoid material which they find offensive or inappropriate, but thanks to public-key encryption it is already virtually impossible today to restrict what information people may create or distribute. In a free society, this is precisely as it should be.


We believe that on the basis of the unprecedented success of the World Wide Web and similar information services, and since as a result of three decades of research the Xanadu project appears to have the best solutions for the implementation of this kind of service, Xanalogical storage and retrieval will become a major usage of future electronic communications services, both broadband and narrowband.

Yours sincerely,
Andrew Pam
Co-ordinator, Project Xanadu (Australia)