WEB : Mapping out communal cyberspace

Mon, 13 Jun 94 08:30:42 GMT

Date: Sunday 12 June 1994

The evolution of the Internet, and as reflected in the navigation tools
which support it, has led to a set of loosely connected, geometry-free
worlds, islands of information.

Whereas this approach is suitable for hypertext, and in fact is highly
desirable, with the introduction of VR as a medium we need to expose the
underlying geometry, and to treat coordinate space as a shared resource.
In other words, the coordinates of the worlds we defined, no matter
whether we choose to use local systems or not, are all mapped onto a
globally agreed coordination standard.

I strongly believe that it will be essential to CREATE a coordinate system
which defines WHERE things are, on a world-wide, globally agreed basis.
In effect to create a world coordination system, so that everything not only
has addressability as per current Internet standards, it also has relative
positional addressability in some world - it can be placed onto a map.

The map does not need to co-incide with the physical world, although
it will be useful to have some model of the planet somewhere. This is
the model for some new inner world, our own evolving cyberspace.

I recommend the RingWorld approach (a la Niven), with a ring 1,000,000 units
wide, circling at a distance of 100 million units around a central point.

This coordinate real estate can be partitioned by some committee, and it
should be large enough for everyone to have a share. If one community
comes too close to another then a simple shift of the objects can suffice.

You should be able to fly over the worlds and can watch the communities
underneath, as you do in aircraft today. You can see new communities
being built below. Perhaps cities will start to emerge, and as we get near
to them the image becomes clearer. Perhaps billboards placed at certain
entry places will indicate what the city offers (and whether you are

We can still hyperlink between places, but perhaps it is more interesting
to actually go there by travelling and seeing things along the road.

It is vital to decide on such things as this as early as possible, since once
the developments start in earnest the number of options will become fewer.

It might be the case that the coordination system used for the VRML in
the pilot phase becomes the final standard because it becomes too entrenched
to change, no matter what the original intentions were.

We will we outgrow the world. Most certainly. History has taught us many
lessons but one in particular is relevant here. We should also build in
extensibility into the adressing. And so, in order to ensure that there is
enough for everyone, we could treat the first ringworld as World 0, which
might take 10 years to complete, but there will always be the ability to
start building World 1, and then World 2, etc... and we can leave the
creations of an infinity of new, similar-looking worlds for future
generations of cybernauts, who might just look back in time as we do
with the pyramids, and wonder what kind of civilisation put this together.

Reply To: roger@apollo.is.co.za