Twenty-five years earlier, Nelson had pioneered the concept of a hypertext network with his proposed Xanadu project. It was a pleasant meeting, but Nelson was annoyed that the Web lacked key elements of Xanadu. He believed that a hypertext network should have two-way links, which would require the approval of both the person creating the link and the person whose page was being linked to. Such a system would have the side benefit of enabling micropayments to content producers. "HTML is precisely what we were trying to prevent—ever-breaking links, links going outward only, quotes you can't follow to their origins, no version management, no rights management," Nelson later lamented.
Had Nelson's system of two-way links prevailed, it would have been possible to meter the use of links and allow small automatic payments to accrue to those who produced the content that was used. The entire business of publishing and journalism and blogging would have turned out differently. Producers of digital content could have been compensated in an easy, frictionless manner, permitting a variety of revenue models, including ones that did not depend on being beholden solely to advertisers. Instead the Web became a realm where aggregators could make more money than content producers. Journalists at both big media companies and little blogging sites had fewer options for getting paid. As Jason Lanier, the author of Who Owns the Future?, has argued, "The whole business of using advertising to fund communication on the Internet is inherently self-destructive. If you have universal backlinks, you have a basis for micropayments from somebody's information that's useful to somebody else." But a system of two-way links and micropayments would have required some central coordination and made it hard for the Web to spread wildly, so Berners-Lee resisted the idea.