The first web browser, Tim Berners-Lee’s WorldWideWeb was also a Web editor. You visit a page of yours, notice a typo, click edit, fix it, save, and keep on surfing. If you noticed something cool, you’d hit command-M to copy the address to the clipboard, highlight the text you wanted to be a link, and hit command-L. Surfing and contributing were one.
There are lots of improvements. For example, a nice feature would be to be able to fix things on other people’s pages and email them a patch. And we would have seen plenty of innovation along the lines of blogs and wikis, where everyone could create Web pages. But we never got to see any of this; the Web never went in that direction. The two-way architecture of the Web (ala Lessig) was lost, because Andreesen and the team at UIUC weren’t interested in implementing it, even though TimBL flew in and pleaded them to.
[Caveat: My account of the history and WorldWideWeb are probably incorrect in places.]
This has clearly always disturbed TimBL and it saddens me too. TimBL’s intuitive hypertext editor never came, and instead we’ve gotten blogs, a poor surrogate. But surprises come from unlikely places. Today I found out about Macromedia Contribute.
According to Zeldman and Macromedia’s annoying Flash intro, Contribute is a client-side app that lets end-users surf to any page on a site, edit it in Macromedia’s WYSIWYG editor (tested on teachers, writers, and other non-geeks) and save it to the server using FTP. You can even drag and drop content in from apps like MS Office and it will convert it to sparking XHTML+CSS with the right acessibility attributes and elements. It all sounds like a dream come true.
Here’s an excerpt from the feature request I sent to Macromedia:
I’d ask that you consider making a version without the client-designer stuff available at a lower price point. Having that could spark the same kind of two-way-web creativity that easy blogging tools (like Blogger) did, but for all sorts of sites, not just blogs. I find that very exciting, and I hope you do too.
To the two-way Web!