The invention of hypertext and its implementation in the form of the World Wide Web was a revolution akin to the creation of the modern printing press. We are still seeing the reverberations of this revolution in many spheres of life.
With the implementation of the Gutenberg printing press back in the mid-1400s it was possible to *democratize information. Society was able too move away from oral traditions and formalize knowledge into books. It also enabled knowledge to be easily transported from place to place without losing the sense of the argument.
Books and reading fuelled both the Reformation and growth of democracy in the western world. The ability to read gave ordinary people access to ideas and information that did not exist in their everyday lives.
However, a constraint with books is that it is hard to combine ideas from many books unless you write another book. It can be difficult to reference from a particular idea in one book to another idea within another book. In fact, doing this on a large scale requires big investments in time, effort, space and money.
But with the revolution of hypertext it became easy to link different texts and thus to link particular ideas together in ways that had previously been challenging. It also became possible to link other media together using the same techniques.
Then with web 2.0 the notion of hypertext was transformed and used to create links between people by means of online social networks. People are now being connected with each other (hyperconnected as argued by some) and this is revolutionising social relations in ways similar to the changes wrought by hypertext.
Also with web 2.0 the ability to create and transform online media was democratized. Previously (in the web 1.0 world) specialist technical knowledge was required to manipulate text and other online media. With the development of user generated content capabilities in web 2.0 the need for technical skills greatly reduced and thus creation and co-creation were democratized.
* By “democratization” in this context I mean that the ability to create texts or hypertexts moves from the specialist technical community (book publishers or software programmers) to ordinary people who do not have any particular specialist skills