Thursday, February 5, 2009

But the Internet has no Dewey decimal system... (1995)

With search engines acting as such a necessary tool for internet use in 2009, we sometimes must remind ourselves that they did not come pre-packaged with cyberspace.

The 1997 book Predicting the Future looked at past and contemporary predictions of the future and assessed their accuracy. A 1995 prediction by Bill Gates about "the internet as a self-publishing medium" was met with great skepticism due to the lack of editors and, believe it or not, a Dewey decimal system on the web. An excerpt from the book appears below:
The lack of an equivalent to the Dewey decimal system on the Internet is a different matter. While it is true that experienced Internet users can eventually find what they're looking for, [Clifford] Stoll and other critics insist that it takes more expertise and time than Internet enthusiasts are willing to admit. This point of contention may eventually be answered by software developments that are still just blips on the horizon. But such a development, according to many experts, including both Internet boosters and doubters, is likely to have to await a formalized method for paying royalties to those who self-publish on the Internet. Bill Gates is sure this can be managed down the line, but as things stand there are still vast legal tangles to be resolved concerning payment to original authors whose work is published by major companies, let alone compensation for self-publishing.

Previously on Paleo-Future:
The Internet? Bah! (1995)
The Answer Machine (1964)
Bill Gates on Charlie Rose (1996)


Christine said...

Oh my goodness, this brings back memories. I graduated from a library and information science program in 1997 and organizing the internet was such a big topic at the time. I should dig out my notes since I feel so nostalgic now :-)

Anonymous said...

But that was a very valid point - the web was just a toy until the first search engines and indexing sites appeared - providing the exact equivalent of Dewey's card catalogs.

Anonymous said...

This article was definitely written in the days before Yahoo, DMOZ, and Google.

Anonymous said...

And nowadays, the next big thing is supposed to be the Semantic Web, which would be the next step needed to make the web organisable by machines.

And, of course, the big problem in the web has always been content/presentation dilemma in HTML, making it hard for machines to actually process the pages.