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Xanadu World Publishing Repository Frequently Asked Questions

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Archive-name: xanadu-faq
Last-modified: 2002/01/25
Version: 1.55
Copyright: (c) 1994-2002 Xanadu Australia

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Xanadu FAQ

  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
  (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.


1 What is Xanadu?
2 What requirements do Xanadu systems aim to meet?
3 What software meets some of the Xanadu requirements?
4 What is the history of the Xanadu system?
5 How can I contact Project Xanadu?
6 What Xanadu-related merchandise is currently available?
7 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


  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


  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 go.


  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 publication.


  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
  that transaction.


  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 below).

  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
  redesign continued.

  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
  Xanadu Australia.

  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
  Fine-grained Transclusion in HTML released.  Transpublishing and
  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.

  Nelson awarded 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 to join the Xanadu mailing
  list.  Members of the Xanadu team monitor and contribute to the
  list on a regular basis.


Project Xanadu

Email (Ted Nelson)
Snail mail
  Project Xanadu, 3020 Bridgeway #295, Sausalito CA 94965 USA.


Xanadu Australia

Email (Andrew Pam)
Snail mail
  Xanadu Australia, P.O.  Box 477, Blackburn VIC 3130 Australia.


6 What Xanadu-related merchandise is currently available?


  The following items are available from:

  Mindful Press
  3020 Bridgeway #295
  Sausalito, California 94965 USA
  Phone:  +1 (415) 331-4422
  Fax:  +1 (415) 332-0136

* Books:
*   "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.

* Papers:
*   "Virtual World Without End", 16 pages for $10.
*   "Xanadu Space 1993", 8 pages for $10.

* Videos:
*   "A Technical Overview of the Xanadu System", NTSC $75, PAL $100.

* Misc:
*   Xanadu Flaming X pin for $50.

  Add $5 postage and handling per $50 ordered, plus $15 for orders
  outside the USA.  All prices quoted are in US dollars.


  "Literary Machines" is also available from:

  Eastgate Systems
  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
> 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...


  Samuel 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 associatively...

  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 poem.  It was
  based on the real life palace of San Simeon owned by William
  Randolph Hearst.


  Ted Nelson named his World Publishing Repository (trademark of
  Project Xanadu) project after the Coleridge poem, to suggest "the
  magic place of literary memory where nothing is forgotten".


  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 "Kubla Khan", on their 1970s album "Farewell to


  The 1980 movie "Xanadu" starring Olivia Newton-John as a muse was
  also named after the Coleridge poem, 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 Kubla Khan a pleasure dome


  Greg Bear used "Kubla 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 "Kubla Khan".


  Douglas Adams used the story of the creation of the Coleridge poem
  mentioned in answer 7c above as a central part of the plot of his
  science-fiction novel "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency".


  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 "Kubla Khan".


  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 "Kubla 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 (Andrew Pam).  Much of
  the material in the answers to questions 1, 4 and 6 was graciously
  provided by (Ted Nelson).  Thanks to (Charles Cameron) for answers 7b and 7d.


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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM