The Web as it was meant to be

Web sites were YOU are the author. Cool!

404. Page Not Found. You’ve no doubt seen that message after clicking on links in your browser.

But how would this message sound: You have followed a link to a page that does not exist yet. To create that page, type in the box below..

One of the original ideas behind the Web was that instead of just reading pages, you could create and update them via your “browser’. But today, the very term browser implies read-only; which reflects how most web interactions are done. We browse pages, we don’t change them. Of course there are good reasons for this.

However, the idea of web-based create/update never really went away. Indeed it’s very much alive in a concept known as a Wiki. The term Wiki comes from the Hawaiian language and means “fast”.

Rather than use full blown Web languages, like HTML, Wikis use a simpler language for page creation and editing. Besides text , images and links to other pages can easily be created.

One fascinating function is that if you create a link to a page that doesn’t exist yet, you – or anyone else – who then clicks on that link, is presented with an ‘empty’ version of that page and invited to add new information. In other words you are creating the new page then and there.

It wasn’t long before this idea was used to create an Encyclopaedia based on the Wiki concept. One of the largest is the Wikipedia. It has over 200,000 articles from all over the world.

I went to Wikipedia and did a quick browse for one of my hobbies. I noticed that there wasn’t an entry on the Victorian Gold Rush, so I went and added one. On my new page, I added links to existing pages on Victoria, Melbourne, Ballarat etc. I then went to the pages on Victoria and Gold Rush and added links on them, pointing back to my new Victorian Gold Rush page.

A few days later, I went back and had a look at my new page. To my pleasant surprise, someone had come along and not only neatened it up, but added an extra introduction line.

The Wikipedia has a Search function as well. If you do a search on a topic, say Phillip Island, you’ll be shown the current page. As of late February, it is a good start, including a list of the towns, given as links (Cowes, Rhyll etc). But these “town” links are shown in red or have [brackets] around them. This means the pages don’t exist yet.

So if you click on the Rhyll link, you’ll be presented with a nice screen under the heading “Editing Rhyll.” Following this are the instructions “You have followed a link to a page that does not exist yet. To create that page, type in the box below (see the help page for more info).”

There is also an area known as the Sandbox, where you can test out the editing functions without changing any real pages.

Of course, it’s not a great big free for all. There are guidelines, including requests for articles to be objective, not violate copyright etc. There are Administrators and a voting process. As they say “Wikipedia policy is formulated for the most part by habit and consensus.”

Wikipedia is located at

Copyright © 2004 David Sidwell (Artwill Services) Back to Freelance Writing