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  Update: The CritSuite Toolset Project has been completed. This page is now part of an archive of CritSuite web pages. The domain no longer belongs to this project or to Foresight Institute. For current information on CritSuite, please see the site maintained by the author of the software, Ka-Ping Yee:
  Enhancing the World Wide Web: Social Software for the Evolution of Knowledge  

Web Enhancement Project Progress: August 1997

by Chris Peterson


"The Other Half of Hypertext" Now Available on the Web:

First Backlink Mediator <> CritLink Presented at EXTRO 3 Conference

Current Project Progress, August 1997:

As part of the Foresight Institute's Web Enhancement Project, Ka-Ping Yee has implemented the first software enabling universal annotation of all text on the Web.

Users can make comments on any text in Web documents immediately, using their current browser to access the CritLink mediator (now available at and soon to be available on other servers). Source code has been placed in the public domain.

CritLink enables fine-grained linking: readers can attach their comments directly to a particular word or phrase in the target document. The marked-up version is accessible from a extended URL which requests the CritLink mediator to merge the original document with its comments.

How the CritLink Mediator Works

Readers can browse the Web while requesting all documents through the CritLink program. When a reader requests a particular URL, the program pulls in the original text, folds in comments by others, and then sends the enriched document to the reader. The original text is preserved, with the comment links indicated by small colored markers. The color of a marker depends on the role of the comment (also called the link type): green for "support", red for an "issue", and so on. This type of program for intermediate processing of documents (positioned like a proxy server but with special functionality) has been termed a mediator.

To publish a new comment, a reader accesses the desired target document using the CritLink mediator, and then selects the "Comment" button to display a form for entering the comment and link type. The comment can then be downloaded as an HTML document to be stored on the commenter's web site. The link information is stored at so that it can be added to the target document when a new reader requests it from the mediator using the extended URL.

CritMap Applet Demonstrated at EXTRO 3

A graphical interface can help web users to stay oriented in the increasingly-tangled set of documents on the web. Terry Stanley has written a Java applet that provides a graphical display of both forward and backward links between documents, enabling the reader to get an overview of a connected set of documents, rather than hopping from page to page with no picture of the context. An early version of this applet will soon be accessible through a button in the CritLink mediator program.

Copyright on Comments

Commenters hold copyright on, and are responsible for, the content of their published comments; these do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Foresight Institute or other organizations using the CritLink mediator software. These organizations reserve the right to remove or modify data on their servers at any time without notice.

Ka-Ping Yee demonstrates his CritLink mediator software to Eric Drexler and to hypertext pioneer Doug Engelbart


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