Historical anticipation of Hook app: Norman Meyrowitz's "The Missing Link", 1989

Recently I came across a classic 1989 paper by Norman Meyrowitz, “The Missing Link: Why We’re All Doing Hypertext Wrong” (see: Internet Archive copy or ACM copy). It reminded me of Hook app because Meyrowitz advocated (in 1989!) that hyperlinking should be as easy as copy-and-pasting across all applications:

"Five years ago, with the exception of people at Xerox PARC and a few pioneers using Smalltalk and Lisp in research laboratories and academia, the paradigm of ‘cut, copy, and paste’ was virtually unknown. Now […] consumers regularly sneer at and ignore software that does not provide full cut, copy, and paste support.

“Hypertext/hypermedia has the same potential for making fundamental improvements to people’s daily work. […] Linking functionality must be incorporated, as a fundamental advance in application integration, into the heart of the standard computing toolboxes […] Only when the paradigm is positioned as an integrating factor for all third-party applications, and not as a special attribute of a limited few, will knowledge workers accept and integrate hypertext and hypermedia into their daily work process.” (pp. 112–113)

Meyrowitz also summarizes this in a video from HUMAN’20, the 3rd Workshop on Human Factors in Hypertext, “Time Travel: A Live Demo of the Intermedia Hypertext System – Circa 1989”, specifically at 4:32m, where he gives the principles of the Intermedia project in 1989:

  • Linking as easy as copy/paste
  • Linking embedded in all apps
  • No difference between reading and authoring

Some of this vision was realized when URI schemes became common for particular apps, which the Manifesto for Ubiquitous Linking advocates, and Hook app tries to make the vision even more real.

I expect @LucB is familiar with Meyrowitz’s “The Missing Link”, but I wanted to share a bit of this history with other Hook app fans.


Thanks for sharing, @Nathan ! 1989 was a big year for this. In About – Linking Manifesto we reference another 1989 gem. The about page contains:

Mark Bernstein, who has published extensively on linking, made several suggestions that were incorporated in this document. He also drew my attention to a 1989 paper by Amy Pearl on ubiquitous link services. Her paper specified requirements for linkable software within an operating system, and described Sun’s efforts in that direction. All these years after Pearl’s paper, linking is far from ubiquitous.

An earlier draft of the manifesto included a quote from Amy Pearl. I can’t recall why we took it out.

Here’s Pearl 1989 Sun’s Link Service: a protocol for open linking | Proceedings of the second annual ACM conference on Hypertext

There’s a bit more history and a cognitive science angle in Beaudoin -2022 On applying integrative design-oriented cognitive science to hypertext: a framework for cognitive productivity, Human '22.