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3.3 Xanadu

For thirty two years now, Nelson has been working on his vision of a “docuverse” (document universe) where “everything should be available to everyone. Any user should be able to follow origins and links of material across boundaries of documents, servers, networks, and individual implementations. There should be a unified environment available to everyone providing access to this whole space.” [Nelson, 1987].

Nelson designed Xanadu, a repository publishing system “intended to store a body of writings as an interconnected whole, with linkages, and to provide instantaneous access to any writings within that body.” [Nelson, 1980]. This system has no concept of deletion. That is, it is a write-once system. Once something is published, it is for the entire world to see forever. As links are created by users, the original document remains the same except for the fact that a newer version is created which would have references to the original version(s). Since conventional file systems are not adequate to implement such a system, Project Xanadu has focused much of its attention on the re-design and re-implementation of file systems. This, in turn, required the creation of a whole new operating system incorporating a hypertext engine. The back-end for the system was scheduled to be released on Sun Workstations during 1992.