Copyright: (c) 1994-2002 Xanadu Australia
This document contains information about the Xanadu Project which may be
of interest to the general public and readers of the
xanews mailing list.
It is currently maintained by
firstname.lastname@example.org (Andrew Pam)
of Xanadu Australia and posted approximately monthly.
This document is copyright (c) 1994-2002 Xanadu Australia and may be freely
distributed in any media providing it is not modified in any way and no
fee is charged either for this document or for any composite work in
which it is included.
This FAQ and other Xanadu information are also available at
Questions in this document are numbered, and answers are labelled
with letters of the alphabet. Thus 1 is the first question, and
1a is the first answer to the first question. Suggestions for
additions, corrections and expansion of the material in this
document are welcomed.
- What is Xanadu?
- What requirements do Xanadu systems aim to meet?
- What software meets some of the Xanadu requirements?
- What is the history of the Xanadu system?
- How can I contact Project Xanadu?
- What Xanadu-related merchandise is currently available?
- What is the history of the name "Xanadu"?
1 What is Xanadu?
Xanadu is a trade and service mark of Project Xanadu for computer
software and services for electronic publishing and media manipulation.
See question 5 below for Project Xanadu contact details.
Xanadu is the original hypertext and interactive multimedia system,
under continuous development since 1960. See question 4
below for the history of the Xanadu system.
Xanadu is an overall paradigm - an ideal and general model for all
computer use, based on sideways connections among documents and files.
This paradigm is especially concerned with electronic publishing, but
also extends to all forms of storing, presenting and working with
information. It is a unifying system of order for all information,
non-hierarchical and side-linking, including electronic publishing,
personal work, organisation of files, corporate work and groupware.
All data (for instance, paragraphs of a text document) may be connected
sideways and out of sequence to other data (for instance, paragraphs of
another text document). This requires new forms of storage, and invites
new forms of presentation to show these connections.
On a small scale, the paradigm means a model of word processing where
comments, outlines and other notes may be stored conceptually adjacent
to a document, linked to it sideways. On a large scale, the paradigm
means a model of publishing where anyone may quote from and publish
links to any already-published document, and any reader may follow these
links to and from the document.
Xanadu is an ideal of open electronic publishing based on the paradigm
mentioned in answer 1c above. It is intended to be
especially free and fair, where all authors and readers are considered
equal. It is a complete business system for electronic publishing based
on this ideal with a win-win set of arrangements, contracts and software
for the sale of copyrighted material in large and small amounts. It is
a planned world-wide publishing network based on this business system.
It is optimised for a point-and-click universe, where users jump from
document to document, following links and buying small pieces as they
The 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.
2 What requirements do Xanadu systems aim to meet?
Every Xanadu server is uniquely and securely identified.
Every Xanadu server can be operated independently or in a network.
Every user is uniquely and securely identified.
Every user can search, retrieve, create and store documents.
Every document can consist of any number of parts each of which
may be of any data type.
Every document can contain links of any type including virtual
copies ("transclusions") to any other document in the system
accessible to its owner.
Links are visible and can be followed from all endpoints.
Permission to link to a document is explicitly granted by the act of
Every document can contain a royalty mechanism at any desired
degree of granularity to ensure payment on any portion accessed,
including virtual copies ("transclusions") of all or part of the
Every document is uniquely and securely identified.
Every document can have secure access controls.
Every document can be rapidly searched, stored and retrieved
without user knowledge of where it is physically stored.
Every document is automatically moved to physical storage
appropriate to its frequency of access from any given location.
Every document is automatically stored redundantly to maintain
availability even in case of a disaster.
Every Xanadu service provider can charge their users at any rate
they choose for the storage, retrieval and publishing of
Every transaction is secure and auditable only by the parties to
The Xanadu client-server communication protocol is an openly
published standard. Third-party software development and
integration is encouraged.
3 What software meets some of the Xanadu requirements?
The World Wide Web (also called WWW or
simply the Web) was partially inspired by the Xanadu ideas and supports
requirements 2a-2e, 2k-2l and 2q. The XHTML standards additionally
support requirement 2f.
HyperWave (also known as
Hyper-G) is based on the Xanadu ideas and supports requirements 2a-2e,
2g-2h, 2j-2l and 2q.
Microcosm has also been influenced
by the Xanadu ideas and supports requirements 2d, 2g and 2j. "Webcosm"
additionally supports requirement 2b.
Lotus Notes (now owned by IBM, and
integrated with the Web under the name Domino) was also influenced by
the Xanadu ideas.
4 What is the history of the Xanadu system?
Ted Nelson thought up the whole thing in 1960, and has been
speaking and publishing about the idea since 1965. In that year
he also coined the terms "hypertext" and "hypermedia" for
non-sequential writings and branching presentations of all types.
(The term "interactive multimedia" seems to have become popular
Since that time there have been a long series of changing designs
embodying these ideas:
- Nelson's designs showed two screen windows connected by
visible lines, pointing from parts of an object in one window to
corresponding parts of an object in another window. No existing
windowing software provides this facility even today.
- Nelson's design concentrated on the single-user system and
was based on "zipper lists", sequential lists of elements which
could be linked sideways to other zipper lists for large
non-sequential text structures.
- Nelson invented certain data structures and algorithms
called the "enfilade" which became the basis for much later work
(proprietary to Xanadu Operating Company, Inc. until 24 August 1999)
- Implementations ran in both Algol and Fortran.
- William Barus extended the enfilade concept to handle
- Nelson assembled a new team (Roger Gregory, Mark Miller,
Stuart Greene, Roland King and Eric Hill) to redesign the system.
- K. Eric Drexler created a new data structure and algorithms
for complex versioning and connection management.
The Project Xanadu team completed the design of a universal
networking server for Xanadu, described in various editions of Ted
Nelson's book "Literary Machines" (see answers 6a and 6b
- Xanadu Operating Company, Inc. (XOC, Inc.) was formed to
complete development of the 1981 design.
- XOC, Inc. was acquired by Autodesk, Inc. and amply funded,
with offices in Palo Alto and later Mountainview California. Work
continued with Mark Miller as chief designer.
The 1981 design (now called Xanadu 88.1) was topped off but Miller
began a redesign. Xanadu 88.1 was not subjected to quality
control or released as a product.
Dean Tribble and Ravi Pandya became co-designers and work on the
- The World Wide Web, Hyper-G
and Microcosm projects are initiated, all inspired or
influenced by the Xanadu ideas.
- Autodesk entered into the throes of an organisational
shakeup and dropped the project, after expenditures on the order
of five million US dollars. Rights to continued development of
the XOC server were licensed to Memex, Inc. of Palo Alto,
California and the trademark "Xanadu" was re-assigned to Nelson.
- Nelson re-thought the whole thing and respecified Xanadu
publishing as a system of business arrangements. Minimal
specifications for a publishing system were created under the name
"Xanadu Light", and Andrew Pam of
Serious Cybernetics in
Melbourne, Australia was licensed to continue development as
- Nelson was invited to Japan and founded
the Sapporo HyperLab. Memex changed their name to Filoli.
SenseMedia became the second
Xanadu licensee under the name of "Xanadu America".
- Nelson became a Professor of Environmental Information at
the Shonan Fujisawa Campus of
Keio University. Initial draft of
text transclusion proposal released.
- Initial draft of OSMIC
specifications released. Internet-Draft on
Transclusion in HTML released.
transcopyright start to be used on the Web.
- Nelson received his first award for his work on Xanadu
and hypermedia, the 1998 Yuri Rubinsky
Insight Foundation lifetime achievement award.
- Open Source release of Xanadu 88.1 and 92.1 code under the
names Udanax Green and
Udanax Gold respectively.
the medal and title of "Officier des Arts et Lettres" by the French
Minister of Culture for his work on Xanadu and hypermedia.
5 How can I contact Project Xanadu?
The Xanadu Team
- Write to email@example.com
to join the Xanadu mailing list. Members of the Xanadu team monitor and
contribute to the list on a regular basis.
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Ted Nelson)
- Snail mail
Project Xanadu, 3020 Bridgeway #295, Sausalito CA 94965 USA.
- email@example.com (Andrew Pam)
- Snail mail
Xanadu Australia, P.O. Box 477, Blackburn VIC 3130 Australia.
6 What Xanadu-related merchandise is currently
The following items are available from:
3020 Bridgeway #295
Sausalito, California 94965 USA
Phone: +1 (415) 331-4422
Fax: +1 (415) 332-0136
Add $5 postage and handling per $50 ordered, plus $15 for orders
outside the USA. All prices quoted are in US dollars.
- "Computer Lib" by Ted Nelson, 1976 collector's edition for $100.
- "Literary Machines" by Ted Nelson, 1993 edition for $25.
(Please enquire for pricing of Japanese edition).
- "Xanadu Hypermedia Server documentation", 1993 draft for $250.
- "Virtual World Without End", 16 pages for $10.
- "Xanadu Space 1993", 8 pages for $10.
- "A Technical Overview of the Xanadu System", NTSC $75, PAL $100.
- Xanadu Flaming X pin for $50.
"Literary Machines" is also available from:
134 Main Street
Watertown MA 02172 USA
Phone: +1 (800) 562-1638 or +1 (617) 924-9044
Fax: +1 (617) 924-9051
An audio cassette of "Xanadu - Publishing with Royalty", Ted's talk at
ONE BBSCON in Atlanta August 1994, is available as tape #694-9 for US$7
plus US$5 shipping and handling (international orders add 20%) from:
The ONE BBSCON Resource Link
3139 Campus Dr., Suite 300
Norcross, Georgia 30071-1402
Phone: +1 (800) 241-7785
Fax: +1 (404) 447-0543
7 What is the history of the name "Xanadu"?
Marco Polo mentioned the original palace "Shan-Du", somewhere
in Mongolia, in his autobiography.
Samuel Purchas wrote a book, "Purchas his Pilgrimage, or Relations of
the World and the Religions observed in all Ages and Places discovered,
from the Creation unto this Present... By Samuel Purchas. London, 1617"
in which he related the following on page 472:
In Xamdu did Cublai Can build a stately Palace, encompassing sixteene
miles of plaine ground with a wall, wherein are fertile Meddowes, pleasant
springs, delightfull Streames, and all sorts of beasts of chase and game,
and in the middest thereof a sumptuous house of pleasure, which may be
removed from place to place...
Taylor Coleridge published the poem "Kubla
Khan", considered the sexiest in the English language, in 1816.
Supposedly Coleridge fell into an opiate trance while reading the passage
in "Purchas his Pilgrimage" mentioned in answer 7b
above and wrote a thousand lines in his mind, but was interrupted
while trying to write it down by the infamous "person from Porlock"
who bothered him on trivial business and made him forget the rest of
the poem. This has been disputed by scholars who didn't believe there
actually could have been any more to the poem.
John Livingston Lowes wrote a book called "The Road to Xanadu: A Study
in the Ways of the Imagination" which was published by Houghton Mifflin
(Boston) in 1927.
Lowes' book traces an amazing hypertext -- the reading of Samuel
Taylor Coleridge -- by starting from Purchas' book and any others
which Coleridge mentions in his journals, letters, etc., and moving
on from there to any books mentioned in the text or footnotes of these
books, and so onwards through yet other books that Coleridge may well
have consulted -- because we know he consulted others which recommended
or mentioned them...
Along the way, Lowes discovered many instances of the workings of what
Coleridge himself termed "the *hooks-and-eyes* of the memory" -- hyperlinks
again: for this is Coleridge's own term for them.
It appears that Coleridge read very widely in the travel literature of his
day, and did indeed tend to obtain many of the books referenced in books he
was reading... and that as he went, his memory was saturated with the more
striking phrases from these many books, and then *linked* them
And Lowes' book itself is a gigantic hypertext, linking sources
in Coleridge's reading not only for "The Ancient Mariner" but also for
"Kubla Khan" -- and along the way touching on an extraordinary variety
of topics. Lowes' book is, when all is said and done, one of the greatest
detective and scholarly hypertexts of all time.
Orson Welles, in his famous film "Citizen Kane", named the palace of
Charles Foster Kane "Xanadu" after the Coleridge
It was based on the real life palace of San Simeon owned by William
Ted Nelson named his World Publishing Repository (trademark of Project
Xanadu) project after the Coleridge
to suggest "the magic place of literary memory where nothing is
The secret hideout of Mandrake the Magician in the comic strip of the
same name was called "Xanadu" (presumably after the Coleridge
The rock group Rush released a song called Xanadu, obviously inspired by
Khan", on their 1970s album "Farewell to Kings".
The 1980 movie "Xanadu" starring Olivia Newton-John as a muse was also
named after the Coleridge
as an allusion to literary inspiration. She also sang the title song.
The pop group "Frankie Goes To Hollywood" released a 1984 album named
"Welcome To The Pleasure Dome", on which the title song contains the
line "In Xanadu did
Khan a pleasure dome erect".
Greg Bear used
Khan" in his 1984 science fiction novel "The Infinity Concerto" and
its sequel "The Serpent Mage" (collectively published as "Songs of Earth
and Power"), in which the poem is considered a song of power whose
completion would have vast political and social implications. The book
also features a massive palace called Xanadu.
David Butler based the plot of his 1986 science-fiction novel "The
Men Who Mastered Time" around the story of
Douglas Adams used the story of the creation of the Coleridge
mentioned in answer 7c above as a central part of the
plot of his science-fiction novel "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective
Douglas Adams wrote a 1990 BBC Television documentary called
"Hyperland" starring himself, former "Doctor Who" Tom Baker, Ted
Nelson and many computer industry luminaries. The documentary
discussed the Xanadu system and quoted
Jane Yolen edits a "Xanadu" series of fantasy anthologies by top fantasy
authors published by Tor Fantasy since 1993. In the introduction to the
first volume, she gives
Khan" as the inspiration for the title and suggests that "the word
Xanadu has come to be a generic name for any magical realm."
Pride Music released a cover of the title song from the 1980
movie "Xanadu" for the annual Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
in 1995. The CD single is called "Xanadu" by Olivia Featuring Paula and
contains five remixes of the song plus a song called "Unconditional Love".
Pride Music kindly granted us permission to provide one track from the
CD on the Xanadu Australia home page as our theme song.
This FAQ was written by firstname.lastname@example.org
(Andrew Pam). Much of the material in the answers
to questions 1, 4 and 6 was graciously provided by email@example.com (Ted Nelson). Thanks to
Cameron) for answers 7b and 7d.