[Part of the author's Scholarly Resources and Hypertext References]

alt.hypertext Frequently Asked Questions

This webpage and all pages below it appear as a matter of record only.  My current website (as of 2017-05-26) is at https://web.cs.dal.ca/~jamie/.

This document is my personal attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions in the alt.hypertext newsgroup and provide some necessary background. Although I am solely responsible for its content I've tried to keep it close to what I think of as the consensus view on all the topics I discuss. I welcome all constructive criticism (and compliments). Please send them by e-mail to <jamie@cs.dal.ca>. Do not send me junk mail!

One note about the format: most of this FAQ is in one piece (except for the list of some recent changes and the acknowledgments which are in separate documents). It will probably take more than 3 seconds to load this FAQ list, but once it has loaded you'll have all the questions and answers. You can probably find multi-part HTML versions of the plain text version of this list at the sites listed in question 5.1 D. This HTML file is currently about 58 Kb big. Document version information is at the end.

Table of Contents


Links from the section titles jump to the list of questions. Links from there jump to the actual questions and answers. The following are the five sections:

Section 1: General Questions

The following seven questions are in section 1:

What is alt.hypertext about?
What are hypertext and hypermedia? How do they differ?
Is there an archive of alt.hypertext postings?
Where are collections of postings about specific topics?
What are some historical milestones about hypertext?
Is it okay to post about new hypertext software, titles, etc. in alt.hypertext?
Where can I get copies of the papers that are cited in alt.hypertext?

Section 2: Hypertext Models

The following two questions are in section 2:

What hypertext systems I can read about online?
Are there any hypertext standards?

Section 3: References to other electronic resources

The following three questions are in section 3:

About hypertext/hypermedia
About electronic publications
About human-computer interaction

Section 4: I've fallen in with the wrong crowd. Please help me out.

The following three questions are in section 4:

Help! I'm new to this whole Usenet/'net thing
I just want to know about WWW/HTML. Where should I go?
Gosh, the newsgroup is noisy. Are there any mailing lists?
I'm interested in hypertext. Which conferences should I attend/read?

Section 5: About this document

The following three questions are in section 5:

Where can I get a copy? (and some legal niceties)
Future Plans
Acknowledgements are in a separate document

1: General Questions

You can jump to

1.1: What is alt.hypertext about?

alt.hypertext is a Usenet newsgroup intended to support discussion of, and dissemination of information about hypertext and hypermedia. alt.hypertext is not a suitable forum for discussion of WWW-specific issues.

If you would like more information about what a Usenet newsgroup is then you should read question 4.1. If you are looking for information about the World Wide Web (WWW) or its associated hypertext markup language (HTML) then you should read question 4.2.

1.2: What are hypertext and hypermedia? How do they differ?

The OED Additions Series defines hypertext as

Text which does not form a single sequence and which may be read in various orders; specially text and graphics ... which are interconnected in such a way that a reader of the material (as displayed at a computer terminal, etc.) can discontinue reading one document at certain points in order to consult other related matter.

Theodore `Ted' Nelson, who first coined the terms hypertext and hypermedia, wrote in Literary Machines that `As popularly conceived, [hypertext] is a series of text chunks connected by links which offer the reader different pathways.' Neither hypertext nor hypermedia require the use of links.

Hypermedia is similar to hypertext but includes media other than text, e.g. a hypermedia document could include text and graphics, or sound and animation. Mark Bernstein has pointed out that, in practice, many hypertext documents have some graphical content (just as texts often include illustrations). Note that the definition quoted above makes the same point. The distinction between hypertext and hypermedia is so blurry that some authors call them both hypertext.

I maintain an extended definition of hypertext etc. at <URL:http://users.cs.dal.ca/~jamie/hypertext/defn.html>.

1.3: Is there an archive of alt.hypertext postings?

There is no publicly accessible archive of alt.hypertext postings that I know about. But there are some small collections of postings about specific topics. They are listed in question 1.4.

If there was an alt.hypertext archive then I'd expect to be able to find it in Cameron Laird's List of Usenet Archives or Kevin Atkinson's Usenet Info Center.

To find old postings and discussions you could use a search engine, such as Deja News or Alta Vista. You might also find something at Infinite Ink's Finding News Groups (or its mirror site) or Yahoo! helpful. Cameron Laird provides more suggestions in his above mentioned List.

If anyone wants to create an archive, please tell me.

1.4: Where are collections of postings about specific topics?

So far I only know of collections of postings about link types. If you know of anymore then please tell me so that it may also be included here. Question 3.1 lists some online hypertext resources, not just postings that appeared in alt.hypertext.

A. Link Types (What they are and how many are enough)

Thomas Trickel has compiled and edited a discussion of link types in various hypertext systems. He has also written a short related essay about link properties. J. Blustein also has a summary of the discussion.

1.5: What are some historical milestones about hypertext?

Vannevar Bush is credited with describing the first hypermedia system, named memex. He wrote about it in his 1945 article As We May Think. Denys Duchier of Simon Frasier Univ. has put both plain text and HTML versions on the WWW. Emanuel Goldberg has also been credited with inventing a system very similar to memex (see the 08 Apr 2006 entry in Mark Bernstein's blog for some details and a link). Ted Nelson coined the terms hypertext and hypermedia to describe his proposed system called Xanadu. (Those terms are defined in question 1.2. More information about Xanadu is available in question 2.1.) According to an article in Vassar College's Miscellany News, he used the term hypertext in a talk there in 1965. Nelson's book Literary Machines is largely about Xanadu. Douglas Engelbart demonstrated the first computerized hypertext system, called NLS/Augment circa 1968. He also invented the computer mouse, graphical user interface, etc. Randy Trigg wrote the first Ph.D. dissertation based on hypertext circa 1986. The first hypertext conference was held in 1987. The alt.hypertext newsgroup was created in 1992.

Other historical overviews

Memex and Beyond is a major research, educational, and collaborative web site integrating the historical record of and current research in hypermedia.

As well, Jorn Barger has a hypertext timeline.

1.6: Is it okay to post about new hypertext software, titles, etc. here?

  1. Software
  2. Literature
  3. Conferences
  4. WWW-specific

New software

Announcements about new hypertext products are welcome in alt.hypertext. If hypertext is only a minor part of the product then please consider setting the Follow-up header to point elsewhere. If you are unfamiliar with that way of working then we'd all benefit from you reading some of the postings in the news.announce.newusers newsgroup.

New hypertext literature (fiction and non-fiction)

Announcements and discussion of works in hypertext and about hypertext are both appropriate in alt.hypertext.

Conference announcements

Many conferences have some hypertext components. If you have a conference announcement that you think will be of interest to the hypertext/hypermedia community then please post a copy of it to alt.hypertext. The news.announce.conferences newsgroup is another good place for such postings.

Question 4.4 about conferences related to hypertext.

The Association for Computing Machinery maintains a list of upcoming events including many conferences.

See also

Question 4.2: `I just want to know about WWW/HTML. Where should I go?' might also be of interest.

1.7: Where can I get copies of the papers that are cited in alt.hypertext?

Printed journal articles and conference papers are available from libraries and, in some cases, online. Members of SIGWEB can read conference proceedings for most of the hypertext conferences from the SIGWEB homepage.

2: Hypertext Models

You can jump to

2.1: What hypertext systems I can read about online?

It seems impractical to list all of the myriad of hypertext/hypermedia systems available today. I list some major systems (namely HyperWave/Hyper-G, Microcosm, Storyspace, WebÞing, World Wide Web, and Xanadu) below. If you feel that some other system has been unfairly excluded then please write to me. If the list grows too long then it might become a separate posting or removed altogether. Also read about XML, SMIL and HyTime in question 2.2. The Electronic Literature Organization might have a list of hypertext tools and systems.

HyperWave (formerly Hyper-G)

HyperWave is a sophisticated Web document management system for large information spaces. The project began under the name Hyper-G in 1990. Among other things, it features hierarchical structuring, link management, attribute and full text search, access control, and interactive link and document editing.

See also the comp.infosystems.hyperg newsgroup.


An open and extensible hypermedia system designed for managing and disseminating unstructured digitally encoded files.


Described as a `writing environment designed for the process of writing. Storyspace is especially well suited to working with large, complex, and challenging hypertexts.' (See question 5.3 below for citation.) According to Mark Bernstein, its most distinctive features are its hierarchical backbone structure and dynamically flexible links with `guard fields', i.e. conditional links (links that are available only if certain nodes have been visited.


WebÞing's holistic hypertext is an object-oriented hypertext system designed for collaborative authoring and implemented on the WWW (see below). Documents in WebÞing generate HTML links from other documents on-the-fly, relieving authors of the need to manage HTML links, and eliminating the problem of outdated or uncoordinated references.

Note: This system will be unavailable for an unspecified time. For more information send e-mail to <webthing@webthing.com> or see the WebÞing, Ltd. website.

A search for WWW-based wikis will likely turn up systems with related functionality. A search for the term open hypermedia sytem will likely turn up more systems and architectures.

World Wide Web

A very popular link-based hypertext system based on a client-server architecture running on the Internet.

See also question 4.2 for some other resources.


The system Ted Nelson wrote about in his ground breaking book Literary Machines. (Question 1.5 (about historical milestones) mentions Literary Machines and Xanadu.)

In 2003, to clarify differences between the WWW and Xanadu, Nelson described Xanadu as an online world-wide anarchic populist hypertext network in which anyone may publish with two-way link overlays creatable by anyone.

See also the Xanadu FAQ list (posted to several newsgroups, including alt.hypertext, and available at <URL:ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/xanadu-faq>).

2.2: Are there any hypertext standards?

Yes, the extensible markup language (XML) and its related standards are rapidly being taken up and will all be official very soon. Some of those related standards include XLink and XPointer (for linking and related activities) and the synchronized multimedia integration language (SMIL) for synchronized events.

Robin Cover has an outstanding index of XML material. The XML Resource Guide at XML.com is also quite good.

There is also a, mostly outdated, ISO standard for describing hypermedia called HyTime. The full title of that standard is Information Technology - Hypermedia/Time-based Structuring Language (HyTime) (ISO/IEC 10744:1992). The original standard (not including the Technical Corrigendum) was edited by Charles F. Goldfarb with assistance from Steven R. Newcomb. The HyTime standard was published in Geneva by the International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission in 1992.

Many pointers to HyTime information are available in The HyTime User's Group Homepage and Robin Cover's HyTime webpage. Both the comp.text.sgml and alt.hypertext newsgroups host HyTime discussions.

3: References to other electronic resources

You can jump to

3.1: About hypertext/hypermedia

There are far too many online resources about hypertext to list here so only the most major ones are included here. As with all sections of this list, your suggestions for additions are welcome.

3.2: About electronic publications

There are so many documents about electronic publications that it is very difficult to list even one that is of particular interest for hypertext.

The description of alt.etext in the Usenet Info Center contains references to some sites.

EJournal (which is discussed in question 4.3) is particularly occupied with electronic text.

3.3: About human-computer interaction (HCI)

There is much information and opinion about HCI available electronically. I expect that from what is listed here you will be able to find what you want.

Keith Instone maintains Usable Web: Guide to Web usability resources.

Gary Perlman's what's happening column in interactions magazine is a great place to find out about HCI resources on the 'net. He suggested the following newsgroups are relevant for HCI researchers: comp.human-factors, comp.cog-eng, sci.cognitive, sci.psychology, and comp.groupware (see the acknowledgements section below for full citation). The human-factors group has its own FAQ list.

The WWW Virtual Library used to have sections for HCI and Cognitive Science.

Noted hypermedia expert Jakob Nielsen writes a monthly column, called Alertbox, about HCI with a particular focus on the WWW. His list of Recommended Other Websites is also well worth a visit.

4: I've fallen in with the wrong crowd. Please help me out.

You can jump to

4.1: Help! I'm new to this whole Usenet/'net thing

The news.announce.newusers and news.newusers.questions newsgroups contain some excellent introductory postings.

Whoever is providing you with access to Usenet should be able to give you some basic introduction or instruction. This isn't because they are necessarily nice, but because if they don't at least attempt to tell you the basics then they can't blame you when you do something awful. If they haven't offered you any advice or instruction then ask someone responsible for some pointers to useful information. I advise you not to ask another newcomer -- that is a great way to propagate misconceptions.

There are many introductory books about the global Internet and Usenet. If you learn well from books then you might consider buying one or borrowing it from a library. Some books are available for free, others are available for sampling online as an enticement to get you to buy them. For a fuller discussion of such books see:

4.2: I just want to know aboutWWW/HTML. Where should I go?

There are several newsgroups devoted exclusively to discussion of the WWW. For an overview of those groups see the HTML version of Thomas Boutell's FAQ list or the plain text version (in one of the comp.infosystems.www newsgroups or in an archive of news.answers postings such as at <URL:ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/www/faq/intro>).

There are many online resources about HTML. I think Library of Congress's HTML resource page is excellent.

If you are looking for information about ease of use then you might be interested in the following three links:

4.3: Gosh, the newsgroup is noisy. Are there any mailing lists?

Yes, there are some mailing lists about the issues which are also appropriate for alt.hypertext. Specifically, there are the HYPER-THEORY and HT_LIT lists. EJournal (an electronic journal) has discussion of hypertext issues, but it is not a discussion list. Details of all of those mailing lists are below. You might also be interested in the list of conferences related to hypertext (in question 4.4).

At the Hypertext 2000 Authors' Workshop about twelve lists were mentioned that might be of interest to hypertext authors. If you are interested in learning more about those lists then I suggest that you check out the Electronic Literature Organization's website because they have a much better chance of keeping up with the ever changing world of mailing lists than I do.

For a more complete list of mailing lists see Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists (PAML) and Mailing Lists Available in Usenet. Both are available through Usenet and are archived at many sites. Details about all of those lists are a little further below.


The hyper-theory mailing list was created to serve as a medium for discussion on hypermedia theory, to help researchers, developers, and users pursue their interests in the field of hypermedia theory and implementation details, this list was created to serve as a high signal to noise ratio resource.

The list owner, Art Pollard, reserves the right to move the mailing list into a moderated format if it is necessary to maintain the list's focus.

To subscribe:

Send an e-mail message to <majordomo@math.byu.edu> containing:
subscribe hyper-theory <your e-mail address>
in the body of the message. After subscribing, you will receive this description of the list as well as additional instructions about how to unsubscribe.


The ht_lit mailing list is for the discussion of hypertext fiction, hypertext theory, and hypertext and literary studies. There is an archive. Kia Mennie <kmm@aaln.org> is the list owner. Feel free to contact her for more information before subscribing.

To subscribe:

Send an e-mail message to <subscribe@journal.biology.carleton.ca> containing:
subscribe ht_lit
in the body of the message.


From the EJournal homepage:

EJournal is an all-electronic, e-mail delivered, peer-reviewed, academic periodical. We are particularly interested in theory and practice surrounding the creation, transmission, storage, interpretation, alteration and replication of electronic `text' - including `display' - broadly defined. We are also interested in the broader social, psychological, literary, economic and pedagogical implications of computer-mediated networks. The journal's essays are delivered free to Internet addressees.

To subscribe:

Send an e-mail message to <listserv@albany.edu> with
as the first (and only) line of text.

Further details about the journal and its archives can be found on its homepage.

Lists of mailing lists

Publicly Accessible Mailing Lists (aka PAML)
Posted to the news.lists, and news.answers newsgroups by Stephanie da Silva.
Archived at <URL:http://www.neosoft.com/internet/paml>, <URL: ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet-by-group/news.answers/mail/mailing-lists>, and sites that mirror the rtfm.mit.edu news.answers archive.
Mailing Lists Available in Usenet
Posted to the following newsgroups: news.lists, news.groups, news.announce.newgroups, bit.admin, and news.answers by Dave Lawrence.
Archived at <URL: ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet-by-group/news.answers/mail/news-gateways>, and at sites that mirror the rtfm.mit.edu news.answers archive.
Electronic Literature Organization website
The ELO is a not-for-profit organization with a mission `to facilitate and promote the writing, publishing, and reading of literature in electronic media'. They might have a list of mailing lists of interest to readers and authors of hypertext and hypertext-like literature.

4.4: I'm interested in hypertext. Which conferences should I attend/read?

Hypertext is used in many computer-based technologies and so you can find hypertext in many fields of inquiry. For example you can find articles and presentations in about hypertext in conferences about: digital libraries, documentation, education, literature, and user interfaces. There are however two main conferences for the discussion and study of hypertext in general: the Hypertext conference and Digital Arts and Culture (DAC). Of course the World-Wide Web (WWW) and Annual Conference on World-Wide Web Applications (ACWWWA) will be of interest to many as well.

Hypertext is a broad-based conference for exchanges about hypertext. It draws artists, developers, and researchers. According to the DAC 2001 homepage, DAC `aims to embrace and explore the cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural theory and practice of contemporary digital arts and culture.'

for information about the Hypertext Conference
see the SIGWEB homepage
for information about DAC Conference
see the DAC 2001 homepage
for information about the WWW Conference
see the conference information webpage at W3C
for information about the ACWWWA
see the ACWWWA 2001 homepage

5: About this document

You can jump to

5.1: Where can I get a copy? (and some legal niceties)

  1. Author/Owner
  2. Standards Compliance
  3. Awards
  4. Versions/Availability
  5. Distribution rights


This document was originally based on the 6 February 1997 version of the posted alt.hypertext frequently asked questions list. Both this version and the plain text version were created by J. Blustein. The author completed a Ph.D. about hypertext at the Computer Science Department in the University of Western Ontario in 1999, and has been been studying hypertext since 1991. Please send constructive criticism (and compliments) by e-mail to <jamie@csd.uwo.ca>. The version date is near the end of this document.

Recent significant changes to this document are listed in a separate document.

Standards Compliance

Although this HTML version conforms to the XHTML 1.0 standard (of 26 Jan 2000) I've tried not to use anything that would cause trouble for readers equipped only for HTML 2.0. For example: I use &#160; (rather than &nbsp;) when a non-breaking space is required.


This document has been recognized with the following awards and honours:


The plain text counterpart of this list is posted to the alt.hypertext, alt.answers and news.answers newsgroups every two weeks. The plain text version is archived at the rtfm.mit.edu FTP site and its mirrors. There are likely HTML versions based on the posted version at:

and perhaps other locations too.

To find out when this version was last updated see the bottom of this document.

Distribution rights

You are free to distribute this document in its entirety. If you want my permission to use an incomplete version of this document (except for a brief quotation) then you'll have to contact me (preferably by e-mail). You have my permission to quote brief passages. Please note that I own the copyright for both the plain text and thisHTML version of the list.

Different conditions apply to use of the plain text list.

5.2: Future Plans

I'd like to have some discussion of hypertext models (such as Dexter) and an explanation of what open hypertext is. Since those questions aren't asked much I guess those sections can wait.

5.3: Acknowledgements

  1. Thanks
  2. Citations for quotations

This section is in a seperate document

© J. Blustein E-mail: <jamie@csd.uwo.ca>
Created on
8 February 1997 (by J. Blustein)
Last updated on
4 May 2003 (by J. Blustein)
For more info
see question 5.1

`We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.'
-- Oscar Wilde

This document is encoded with XHTML 1.0

Recipient of a Web Design Group great site award

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