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[This page was written in May 1998 and hasn't been updated since then. Excuse it if some links or descriptions are out of date. Surprisingly, little has progressed in 'way new interface design' for visualizing information spaces.]
the speciation of the interface
  Huh? What does that mean?

Well, as my interest in
Dynamic HTML attests, I've become something of an interface nut. And I've been thinking about applying principles evolutionary theory to the history of interface development, in particular the model of punctuated equilibrium, which states that species remain stable for long periods of time, and then undergo a rapid change due to sudden environmental shift.

The predominant interface model for the last ten years has been the graphical user interface known as WIMP (windows, icons, menus, pointers). It first fully appeared in the mid 1970s, and apart from some key commands and the use of color, hasn't significantly changed since.

WIMP sufficed as a method for mapping the local world of one's personal computer. The increase in network connectivity, from small local area networks to the Internet has worn the efficacy of WIMP extremely thin. With information scattered to the four winds, we need new methods of retrieving, archiving, and communicating through our computers.

The last few years have seen the rapid proliferation of new interface models in an attempt to address this need. Follow the links throughout this page to see some samples. And if you know of something I've missed, please
fill me in.
  Here are a couple good link lists pointing to what could likely be Interfaces of the Future:

1. [April 22 2000 Note: This has disappeared, and I can't find it anywhere.] A
slide from "Managing Technologies in Public Libraries: Web Technologies", a presentation by Tamas E. Doszkocs.

2. The
Big Picture, a lengthy and detailed collection of "Visual Browsing in Web and non-Web Databases".

A Brief History of Human Computer Interaction Technology, Brad A. Myers
In providing a well-presented and concise chronicle of the development of the interface, Myers shows that, contrary to popular opinion, the bulk of innovation occurred not within the industry, but at educational institutions, and that the academic discipline of human-computer interaction has been vital to the success of the computer industry.

Interface Culture, by Steven Johnson
As someone new to the field of human-computer interaction, and one who had been overwhelmed by the drily academic papers that have come out of the field, I found Johnson's book extremely gratifying for going beyond the time-to-completion measurements and other data which clutters up research, and instead exploring the meanings of interface design within our culture, and how not only does culture influence the interface, but the interface influences culture. Johnson's aim is to shine a light on interface design as a field worthy of broad criticism, and to begin to develop a language by which to do so. In this book is the inspiration for the page here, and I believe we'll find we're just out of the starting gate.
(Note: Johnson also gets points for coining the Next Big Phrase in interface design, the "user-hostile interface".)

Interfaces for the Future, various people
This talk, at the Seybold/Wired '98 conference, was another inspiring factor in my pursuit of this topic. A good survey of where some of the more creative minds in interface design are thinking the field should go.
  Way New Interfaces   

Information Organization
The Brain
Supposedly modeled on the workings of the brain, this piece of software allows users to create associative maps of all of their pertinent digital information. An ambitious attempt at helping people corral all the disjointed data accumulated, I find that it suffers from have a too-complicated user interface requiring too many mouse click-and-drags, key commands, and typing needs to be used by any but the Early Adopter crowd. Still, well worth a look-see.

Information Visualization
[April 22, 2000 Note: Perspecta and AllTheNews seem to be no more. Sniff.]

PerspectaView (shown at AllTheNews)
With roots in
MIT's Media Lab, Perspecta is one of the earliest developers of 3-D graphical information spaces on the Web. This Java applet (which I've pointed to on the news-aggregation site AllTheNews), allows the user to 'fly-through' a hierarchical information space. That such representation is any more useful than the Windows-Explorer-type interface is definitely debatable.

[April 22 2000 Note: This page, too, has been updated. It looks like they're showing off more than they used to. Yay!]
Published by InXight (a spin-off from Xerox PARC), these four information visualization tools are designed to assist users cope with massive amounts of information. It's difficult to critique from just the screenshots offered. The most popular tool is the Hyperbolic Tree, as it's nodal diagramming qualities have caused it to find its way into Web site management tools.

Information Presentation
Elastic Catalog at News in The Future
Speaking of the Media Lab, the News in the Future program has produced this Java applet which has generated significant buzz among information design wonks. A somewhat simple layering of text and presentation of left-to-right hierarchy, the fluidity and wholeness of this interface definitely score Wow points. Unfortunately, the rollover-and-click model proves confusing and at times distracting. Still, in some seasoned hands, interfaces like this could go a long way to presenting deep information in small spaces.

Cross-Browser X-Ray Viewer
[April 22, 2000 note: How sad is this. I don't host my own gizmo anymore! It's lost on a Macintosh I haven't used in two years. Someday I'll reclaim it. Sorry for this broken link.]
My contribution to the field. This DHTML applet (requiring Navigator or IE4) is extremely simple, merely swapping out the presence of one image for another. Derived from the
Magic Lens work done at PARC, such an interface could be used in filtering any kind of visualized data, allowing the user to understand the context of the whole while receiving the specifics of a section.
This particular version was directly inspired by the Corbis Codescopeô used in the Leonardo CD-ROM. Unfortunately, all mentions of CD-ROM titles have been eradicated from Corbis' website. If you do find a copy of Leonardo (or, most anything Corbis published), it's probably worth picking up and checking out.

Netscape Company Timeline
[April 22, 2000 Note: D'ohh! This one seems to be >poof< gone. Maybe AOL doesn't want the company's history pre-acquisition to be known. Sad, because it was an elegant interface.]
This DHTML applet (requiring Navigator 4) is an intelligent application of layering text (and I know that the guys at Netscape are big fans of the Elastic Catalog applet mentioned above). It's similar to magic lens technology, in that selecting a category of information causes that data to pop out.
Make sure to scroll around. The "Stalker" palette will follow you, and even skid to a halt once it's reached it's destination. Interface with a personality--whoda thunk?
Lastly, this page used to be on a black background, and it was far cooler--the various layers really stood out. However, in typical Netscape fashion, somebody must have said, "Make it uglier!" so they put it on white.

Information Retrieval
Inxight's LinguistX, ThingFinder, Summary Server, and Categorizer.
Not user interface per se, these technologies use natural language processing to help users sift through a large amount of documentation. Basically, someone had the bright idea that documentation is, hey, words!, and decided to apply linguistic methods to searching for relevant data. What this means is that we should be seeing search engines that return not a laundry list of links, but truly pertinent results--what a thought!