Annotation support

David Martland (
Fri, 9 Jul 93 10:23:26 +0100

Support for Annotations is not (as far as I know) part of the current HTML standard, since
it is not really a property of the source text, but rather of the Browser. I notice that
NCSA's Mosaic is currently providing private annotations, and is about to provide group
and public annotations. This is a good idea, although the annotations are on a "per Window"
basis, which may not be ideal - it could be better if the annotations are linked more closely
to sections of text - perhaps by having "annotation anchors" in the margin, which link
to the annotation text

There is an additional problem with annotations, not addressed in Mosaic's implementation, since
it may be desirable to allow annotations on annotations! I do not believe that Mosaic does this.

I am aware of some systems which provide support for annotations, though not for HTML documents -
for example the MUCH system developed by Roy Rada at Liverpool, and designed for asynchronous local
development of text, does have annotation support.

However, although it might appear that annotations are "simply" a property of the Browser - the
problem does not end there. The way NCSA have done it is to provide annotation servers - this then
raises the possibility of different Browsers using the same annotation server. This would be
beneficial to many users, since there would then be no requirement to adopt a particular browser
package - for example I could communicate using Mosaic on my Unix system, and someone else could
annotate my text using Cello on an IBM PC etc.

It seems to me that there is a need for consideration of annotation services, and how to provide them.

I think this is an issue which needs wider discussion - if it has not had it already.


David Martland, Dept. of Computer Science, Brunel University, United Kingdom
Tel: (+44) 0/895 - 274000 ext 2139 [Overseas callers should suppress
Fax: (+44) 0/895 - 256186 the leading zero of the area code]