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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: November 1997

by Chris Peterson


CritSuite: "The Other Half of Hypertext" Web Software Demoed and Released for Free Use

Summary: New free web tools enable users to put their own comment links into any web document. Links of this new type are displayed, along with the original author's links, on a one-screen graphical display showing who agrees and disagrees with any document on the web.

Just as the original World Wide Web was created by a small group of programmers making a tool for their own use, new web tools for "the other half of hypertext" are being delivered for free public use by a tiny group of hypertext advocates. The tools were demonstrated Thursday, November 6, 8:45 PM, at a free evening session of the Foresight Institute annual conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Palo Alto, California.

Foresight Institute has set up a free web site,, to enable web users to engage in Critical Issues discussions. At this site, users can take advantage of the new technology:

  • CritLink to add their own comment links anywhere in the text of any web document. For the first time, readers can "mark up" others' documents to agree, disagree, ask questions, or make a general comment.
  • CritMap to display all of a web document's links—both links made by the original author and reactions by others—in a graphical display. For the first time, readers can see, on one screen, who has linked to a given web page, and whether they agree or disagree.
  • CritMail, a new version of Hypermail which takes email discussions and converts them into web documents where quoted text is linked to its original location. For the first time, readers can easily see a quote as its author meant it to appear—in context.

"Pioneers of Hypertext" praise new Web tools

"The Crit toolset is another good step in Web evolution toward the complete feature set needed to truly revolutionize how we collectively develop and apply knowledge—in business and throughout society," said Doug Engelbart, a pioneer of hypertext as well as inventor of the computer mouse and graphical user interface.

Commenting from Japan, Ted Nelson, the visionary hypertext pioneer whose work inspired the Crit team, said, "At last we can annotate the Web, and high time."

Foresight's chairman Eric Drexler, a long-time advocate of full-featured hypertext publishing, said, "Making progress on the complex technology issues that we face requires better connections between statements of contrasting views. Our hope is that these new social software tools will enable a higher level of quality in Web-based discussion."

Users read and comment on web documents by viewing them with the new tools, which run on a web server. Users need no additional software of any kind; the tools work with their web browser.

The developers of these technologies—Ka-Ping Yee, Terry Stanley, and Peter McCluskey—are providing source code for free use and modification by individuals and companies who wish to use the new tools on their servers.

About the Foresight Institute

Foresight Institute ( is a non-profit foundation specializing in education on emerging technologies. Foresight sponsors the development of social software designed to improve the quality of critical discussion of public policy issues in technology.

For more information, contact:
Foresight Institute
tel: 650-917-1122
fax: 650-917-1123

Get involved. Help the Crit Project provide "the other half of hypertext"


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