Webstrates is a research project and an experimental system that we have designed to explore what we call shareable dynamic media: a software vision where the distinction between application and document is blurred and that treats collaboration, sharing, and distribution across heterogeneous devices as the norm rather than an exception. Shareable dynamic media are collections of information substrates (or substrates for short). Substrates embody content, computation, and interaction, effectively blurring the distinction between document and application. Substrates can evolve over time and shift roles, acting as what are traditionally considered documents in one context and applications in another, or a mix of the two. Webstrates (web substrates) allow us to explore this vision through a simple yet powerful change to basic web technology.
Webstrates (available on GitHub) is a web server and transparent web client that synchronizes web pages between clients of the same page and that makes changes persistent. By using concepts of instrumental interaction, and transclusion, webstrates can be composed in ways that blur the line between application and document, allowing multiple users to share webstrates asymmetrically. Thus, two different users could, for example, edit a document with different representations and with different functionality (as shown in the videos below). For more information, please read the academic research articles to the right, or the developer documentation on GitHub.
Webstrates was intially presented at the 28th annual ACM symposium on User
interface software and technology (UIST ’15) in November 2015 and received a Best Paper Award.
Subsequently a paper was presented at ACM Hypertext 2016 in July 2016 that discusses Webstrates from the perspective of classical hypermedia systems. We have presented a paper at the Salon des Refusés workshop at the Programming 2017 conference discussing what software can learn from Hypermedia exemplified through Webstrates. Finally, at the 30th annual ACM symposium on User interface software and technology (UIST '17) in October 2017 we present Codestrates a literate computing environment built on top of Webstrates.