Fascinating article from Alex Wright, on Paul Otlet’s vision for a pre-digital semantic web, circa 1934:
…Otlet sketched out plans for a global network of computers (or “electric telescopes,” as he called them) that would allow people to search and browse through millions of interlinked documents, images, audio and video files. He described how people would use the devices to send messages to one another, share files and even congregate in online social networks. He called the whole thing a “réseau,” which might be translated as “network” — or arguably, “web.”
…Otlet’s version of hypertext held a few important advantages over today’s Web. For one thing, he saw a smarter kind of hyperlink. Whereas links on the Web today serve as a kind of mute bond between documents, Otlet envisioned links that carried meaning by, for example, annotating if particular documents agreed or disagreed with each other. That facility is notably lacking in the dumb logic of modern hyperlinks.
Like Vannevar Bush’s memex, it’s an amazingly visionary work for such an analog kind of guy.