NODAL: A Network-Oriented Document Abstraction Language

Lee Iverson
University of British Columbia

Lee Iverson <>
Last modified: Tue July 16 15:51:32 PDT 2002

A New Model for Collaborative Work

NODAL (a Network-Oriented Document Abstraction Language) is a proposal for a new infrastructure and model for building collaborative applications. The two documents below represent a high level description (the white paper) and more detailed discussion of some of the API building blocks for the system.

From the Abstract of the white paper:

NODAL is designed as a general, document-oriented distributed database with a data model that allows addressing, searching and linking of content of any kind from any document. The data model defines documents as directed graphs of content nodes and provides adaptable addressing, security, privacy and version control at the granularity of these nodes. Moreover, it is built on a distributed client-server (or peer-to-peer) communication model that seamlessly shifts from synchronous, real-time interaction to asynchronous or intermittently-connected interaction. Finally, it is designed to extensibly, support a wide range of input and output formats so that it will interoperate easily with systems using existing standard document formats and exchange protocols, including even applications unaware of its existence. It is hoped that this simple system will become a standard, universal component of the infrastructure of information management and exchange and thus allow for flexible, productive collaboration between willing people for any purpose, anywhere, using any tools.

Please feel free to comment on the documents, implications etc. Specific comments should be sent directly to me, while general discussion can be sent to one of the NODAL mailing lists at

The SourceForge project is available at:

Thanks to Doug Engelbart, Eric Armstrong, Eugene Kim, Jack Park, and everyone else who has been participating in the OHS discussions both at SRI and online. I hope I've done justice to the ideas that have been distributed in those forums.