A memex in every web browser

Jeremy Keith
2 min readNov 4, 2023

When Mathew Modine’s character first shows up in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, I figured the rest of the cinema audience wouldn’t have appreciated me shouting out “VANNEVAR BUSH IN THE HOUSE!” so I screamed it on the inside.

The Manhattan Project was not his only claim to fame or infamy. When it comes to the world we now live in, Bush’s idea of the memex has been almost equally influential. His article As We May Think became a touchstone for Douglas Engelbart and later Tim Berners-Lee.

But as Matt Thompson points out:

…the device he describes does not resemble the internet or anything I’ve ever found on it.

Then he says:

What Bush was describing sounds to me like what you might get if you turned a browser history — the most neglected piece of the software — into a robust and fully featured machine of its own. It would help you map the path you charted through a web of knowledge, refine those maps, order them, and share them

Yes! This!! I 100% agree with the description of browser history as “the most neglected piece of the software.” While I wouldn’t go as far as Chris when he says web browsers kind of suck, I’m kind of amazed that there hasn’t been more innovation and competition in this space.

If anything we’ve outsourced the management of our browsing history to services like Delicious and Pinboard, or to tools like Obsidian and Roam Research. Heck, the links section of my website is my attempt to manage and annotate my own associative trails.

Imagine if that were baked right into a web browser. Then imagine how beautiful such a rich source of data might look.

Like Matt says:

I don’t think anything like this exists. So Bush’s essay still transfixes me.




Jeremy Keith

A web developer and author living and working in Brighton, England. Everything I post on Medium is a copy — the originals are on my own website, adactio.com