Enhancing the World Wide Web

Social Software for the Evolution of Knowledge

  Update: The CritSuite Toolset Project has been completed. This page is now part of an archive of CritSuite web pages. The domain http://crit.org no longer belongs to this project or to Foresight Nanotech Institute. For current information on CritSuite, please see the site maintained by the author of the software, Ka-Ping Yee:




Project Progress




CritSuite Now in Use

CritSuite software enabling bidirectional, fine-grained annotation of any web text is now posting for free public use at http://crit.org/ It works with any web browser and requires no downloading of code in order to use. The source code is available on an open source license for use on other servers, and for modification.


Importance of Hypertext Publishing

Foresight Institute has a special interest in systems to improve the evolution of knowledge and to enhance the quality of discussions and decisions. The goal driving this project is the subject of the essay Hypertext Publishing and the Evolution of Knowledge. See also Chapter 14 of Engines of Creation. The World Wide Web, as it currently exists, is a partial implementation of a hypertext publishing system.

Why Corporations Need Improved Hypertext

A proposal by David Forrest on "How Can we Leverage Corporate Influence to Catalyze the Development and Adoption of an Improved Hypertext Standard?"


Initial proposals for Web Enhancement

When both the successes and the limitations of the World Wide Web become apparent, Foresight developed an initiative to get the features required for a true hypertext publishing system incorporated into World Wide Web standards. This "Web Enhancement Project" was explained first in an article in Foresight Update 21, and also in an overview article. The initial proposal mostly depended on getting additional code written, but in addition the backlinks page proposed a near-term solution enabling backlinks immediately using then existing browsers and search engines.

The Next Step Was to look to Hyper-G for Web Enhancement

For awhile it was thought that the need for Foresight Institute to write the software to turn the WWW into a true hypertext publishing system had been eliminated by the introduction of Hyper-G, designated HyperWave in its commercial version. This article explains the advantages of Hyper-G and describes the then current status and the then anticipated next steps of Foresight's Web Enhancement Project. Subsequently, Foresight revised its Web Enhancement strategy to emphasize other approaches.


Project Progress


December 1998

CritSuite development continues. Users may now obtain email notification every time a link is added to any specific page of interest (the "monitor" button). The CritWriter form, obtained through the "comment" button, has been simplified and clarified. CritSuite is operating on a "bazaar-style" open source development model; your comments and code are welcome. Visit http://crit.org/ to use the software and for information on CritSuite email lists.

June 1998

For our first dicussion topic using CritSuite, "The other half of the web," we've chosen how new technologies in surveillance and encryption will affect longstanding standards of privacy and openness. The relevance to nanotechnology is clear--consider nanotechnological-scale surveillance--and the topic has many other advantages: people already care intensely about it, there are technical aspects that are understood by some but not by others, and those involved in this topic tend to be highly computer-literate and early adopters of new software.

You are invited to join in this discussion at http://crit.org/http://crit.org/openness. Explore the site, read the source documents, make your first comment. (If you change your mind about it, you can use the "edit" button to delete it.) Once you know your way around, perhaps you'll feel more ambitious. Engines suggests that "Authors will write pithy, exciting summaries of ideas and link them to the lengthy, boring explanations. As authors expound and critics argue, they will lay out their competing worldview networks in parallel, point by point." For example, you may not agree with the way that someone structures a chart of issues (e.g. http://crit.org/http://crit.org/openness/crossfire/ChartCP.html). You may decide to do a completely different chart, and link it to various other documents in the discussion.

February 1998

For answers to your questions about CritSuite, visit the new FAQ page at: http://crit.org/~peterson/CritFAQ.html. Links to test discussions using CritSuite are available at http://crit.org/.

November 1997

CritSuite: "The Other Half of Hypertext" Web Software to be Demoed and Released for Free Use. New free web tools enable users to put their own comment links into any web document. See also story in Update 31.

August 1997

The work by Ka-Ping Yee on the M1+ proposal has progressed. The first software enabling universal annotation of all text on the Web, the CritLink backlink mediator, was presented at the EXTRO 3 Conference, and is now available on the Web. Also see a set of photos: Ka-Ping Yee demonstrates his CritLink mediator software to Eric Drexler and to hypertext pioneer Doug Engelbart.

July 1997

There increasingly appear to be many practical ways of implementing a true hypertext publishing system on the WWW. Since Foresight first addressed this opportunity two years ago, the methods considered have included backlinks, Hyper-G and most recently the Annotator. Independent of the Annotator work referred to in May's progress update below is a solution coded by Ka-Ping Yee using a design originally conceived by Mark Miller. Ping's M1+ proposal has performed very well in initial trials, and is presented here. Everyone involved in the Web Enhancement project at Foresight is very excited about this development, and we will soon bring you more details and a perspective on the importance of this work.

May 1997

Chris Peterson explains why Foresight now believes that the Annotator code developed by Wayne Gramlich seems more promising than Hyper-G for developing a hypertext publishing system to handle real debates on complex issues. Terry Stanley, who is now completing the Annotator project for Foresight, describes how the Annotator works.