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Xanadu

Contributor(s): Jack Swalwell

Xanadu (TM) is a set of ideas and a software design project for a universal system of electronic information storage and access. Its inventor, Ted Nelson, is credited with inventing the term hypertext , an idea that is a central part of Xanadu. In his book of 1987, Literary Machines , Nelson envisioned a distributed document system that in some ways anticipated the World Wide Web .

Conceived in the early 1980's or perhaps slightly earlier, Xanadu encompassed a system for distributed and collective authoring, the ability to retain all previous levels of a document, and a number of specific hypertextual ideas including the link type and the backlink . Nelson described Xanadu as "an instantaneous electronic literature" and "perhaps the ultimate" hypertext system. Although Xanadu has failed to materialize for actual use, Nelson's concepts have stimulated the thinking of a number of information architects and system designers.

Nelson derived the system's name from the fabled palace in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, "Kubla Khan."

This was last updated in July 2007

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