In traditional texts, digressions are noted by the author in the form of footnotes and bibliographies, which have their corollaries in hypertext in the form of links and searches. But a hypertext link is not simply a mention of where more information can be found if the reader chooses to return to the library or bookstore and search for it (which also infers that the library or bookstore would provide the same collection of texts to the reader as was available to the author in her locale). In a fully interactive hypertextual document, a link from a word or concept in the text immediately brings more information from some other location on the internet. The link could bring an original source document in the case of a quotation, or a link could sidegress to an account of the historical context of the writing. Likewise, a list of sources produced from a search engine is not merely a suggestion for further research, it is a means to bring those sources immediately to the reader.
The present state of software development for search engines and links maintains the tradition of an author assuming that (s)he can lead a reader down a specific path to a specific conclusion. Either the author of the hypertext creates the relationships, as in the case of links, or, a software engineer creates a program to display a list of links depending on reader entry of keywords. The point here is that in either case someone is attempting in advance to determine what the reader will want to see. According to paralogic hermeneutics, this is a major flaw in the technology currently available. It is not truly "interactive" because the reader is still limited to pre-selected options.
But proponents of hypertext would insist that this dilemma is only temporary. They are well aware of limitations in the existing technology and future designs are based on ways to make the text respond to reader intentions. Landow recognizes the issue and states, "a fully interactive system allows users to edit, add or delete blocks of text, and also to modify the links between blocks." 10 When users are able to manipulate files more fully, then hypertextual documents will be able to mimic verbal conversation which allows a more immediate hermeneutic guessing. In this way the author and user (reader) can achieve a workable passing theory without the need to publish in paper form each successive guess.
There is little doubt that significant changes will be realized regarding the capabilities of HTML and the Web. What we currently (1997) recognize as the Web, with graphic browsers such as America Online, became available to the public only two years ago. The accompanying chart shows the explosion of Web hosts over the last 13 years. Hosts are the sites which link Web communications. In 1984, there were 1000 hosts. By 1996, there were ten million hosts. If the previous trend of a ten-fold increase every four years continues, there would be an increase of 250% each year which would put 1997 at twenty five million hosts.
The exponential increase will no doubt cause many predictions for the future of the Web, but there is one prediction that cannot be argued; the Web has changed and will continue to change substantially over time. For more in-depth information on the history of the internet and web, visit the PBS website. (The site is programmed in Java and shows some of the new advances in that programming technology for the web.)