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Project Xanadu*

* "Xanadu" is an internationally registered trademark.
Project Xanadu is the name for Ted Nelson's hypertext work since 1960.  For the period 1988-92, Project Xanadu was owned by XOC, Inc., which was a subsidiary of Autodesk, Inc., makers of AutoCad(R).  However, Project Xanadu is no longer connected officially with XOC, Inc., or with the software developed there.

We foresaw world-wide hypertext, clearly and specifically, even in the sixties when almost nobody could imagine hypertext.  No one else did.  We knew millions of people would want to publish hypertext on computer networks, and assuring this freedom for everyone to publish was always part of the Xanadu vision.  Making it happen was our commitment to freedom.

However, contrary to legend, Project Xanadu was NOT trying to create the World Wide Web.  The World Wide Web is precisely what we were trying to PREVENT.  We long ago foresaw the problems of one-way links, links that break (no guaranteed long-term publishing), no way to publish comments, no version management, no rights management.  All these were built into the Xanadu design.

That Xanadu design is not dead, just being redefined for today's realities.

We were right about the power of world-wide hypertext, as anyone can see.  If only people understood that we were right about the rest of the structure, which is necessary now more than ever.  And we believe that same structure can be rebuilt, even with the Web as it is now.

Xanadu Structure

Xanadu is a specific structure which we want everyone to understand, both as an abstraction and as an answer to what is still wrong with the Web.

The Influence of Project Xanadu

It's true that Tim Berners-Lee, designer of the original Web protocols, was unaware of our work when he started around 1990.  Evidently he had seen HyperCard, and what he created was essentially HyperCard(R) on the Internet.

Systems whose design was influenced by the Xanadu ideas, as acknowledged by their creators, include:

We also believe that the following were directly influenced by our work and talks: Basic Xanadu Objectives Basic Xanadu Method 

All media contents get permanent addresses, so that they can be addressed by anyone independent of their documentary context.  On-line quotation references these permanent addresses.  All links reference these permanent addresses, so that the same links are always on the same content-- wherever that content is re-used.


Our connective structure is extremely different from that of HTML or any popular system.  The Xanadu connective structure consists of both links and transclusions.  If you are not willing to understand or acknowledge the simple difference between links and transclusions-- many people are not-- then you close the door to understanding the Xanadu system.


In Xanadu structure, a link is a connection between things which are different, and a transclusion is a connection between things which are the same.  This is explained in The Future of Information by T. Nelson, and in various articles to be found in our archive at Xanadu Australia.

More will be published here on these matters soon.