Welcome to the hi:project’s interim website where we aim to explain the What?, the Why? and the How? We attempt all that on this page, with links to help you explore further.

What is the hi:project?

The hi:project is an ambitious effort to create a more human-centric web, open and accessible to all. Endorsed by the Web Science Trust, we’re currently building a community of interested parties, preparing to develop a technical proof of concept to demonstrate the potential of our vision.

We pioneer the human interface (HI), the successor to the user interface (UI).

Defining HI

Here’s Jef Raskin’s definition of interface:

The way you accomplish tasks with a product – what you do and how it responds – that’s the interface.

We extend that to define UI explicitly:

The way a machine or service helps you accomplish tasks with or through it, that’s the user interface.

In contrast to our project’s vision for HI:

The way your software helps you accomplish tasks with other software, that’s the human interface.

How did we get here?

When we bring things into the digital realm, we digitalize the pre-digital – after all that’s all we’ve known. That’s how we went from mail to email, and from having desktops, files and folders to, well, desktops, files and folders.

Only after the passing of many years, and sometimes decades, do we discover and develop the unprecedented qualities of the digital era. For example, we’re now migrating from filing to instant search, and from email to all variety of social / sharing / collaborating / chat platforms and services.

The UI is presented by the machine to the user. That’s how it was for physical machines on the shop-floor back in the industrial revolution, and that’s how it is today for the machines that proxy for the organizations in our digital lives. But being non-physical, this needn’t be the case. An interface just sits between the human and the machine, and can therefore be up close to the human rather than the machine, up close to the entities that actually matter in all of this.

Now those organizations and their machines can adapt to our interface than insist we adapt to theirs. In fact, there are some really intriguing differences, as summarised in this graphic (repeated below in text format should you have a small screen or use a screen reader).
The hi-project 8th Sept 2014.008

User interface Human interface
50 year old construct fit for 20th Century computing for the pervasive digital environment of the 21st Century
up close to the machine up close to the individual
designed for an ‘average’ user created uniquely for the individual
the organization’s the individual’s
the user must fit to the machine fits the products to the individual
provides interactive information enables knowledge building
degrees of awkwardness ideal, so ‘disappears’
largely static design dynamic, in the moment
‘the interface is the product’ the product is the product


But hang on, you might say, isn’t the future of UI no UI? By this we mean non-screen based – haptic, automated, voice and ambient for example. Some artificial intelligence (AI) perhaps.

Such innovations, for all their awesomeness, do not change two fundamental facts – HI isn’t just about screens either, and we’re all unique.

We each have our own specific digital, numerical, information and visual literacy. We may have disabilities, and become disabled as we age. We each still need domain over our unique personal data, created in part by our unique interactions with our unique environs, and the facility to make sense of it to help in some way make sense of our unique lives. And many of us relish the opportunity to do that without intermediation and appreciate, from a societal point of view, others having similar facility.

No matter then the technology or the biological senses involved, HI remains as relevant. In fact perhaps more so, as you may determine as you read about the Why?

Why does the hi:project exist?

We want to help:

For those academics and engineers dropping by here, one software researcher describes the hi:project as reshaping the problem space for privacy and accessibility.

We’re inspired by the mission of the World Wide Web Foundation and aspire to play our part in “building a future in which the Web empowers everyone, everywhere, to take part in building a fairer world.”


Before we dive in, you should know about Alice. She is the hi:project’s customer. She is a citizen and a colleague. She is a friend and a relative. She lives next-door and overseas. She is a millennial and a pensioner. She is highly educated and left school at 14. She has 20/20 vision and acute retinopathy.

I’m Alice. You’re Alice.

We’re battling for Alice with one project on three fronts. If one or more of these is important to you, please join our team. If you know others who consider these things important, do let them know we exist.

Personal data & privacy

We have a privacy crisis. The surveillance of Alice is so deep and pervasive it’s actually quite tricky to convey in a sentence or two here. Yet our democratic representatives increasingly recognize this problem, and many are reaching for the only tool in their tool kit – regulation.

The hi:project engineers privacy by design, giving Alice domain over her personal data and one place where she can express her privacy preferences.

Relevant blog posts:


Citizen-centric Internet of Things

A citizen-centric Internet of Things is one where we don’t rely on a third party to mediate our interactions with these Things, with this ambient computing environment assembling around us. You know … just like you never had a mediator for your surroundings ‘back in the day’.

hi:project IoT

Most people agree that an open and decentralized digital architecture has served us very well to date, and we’re intent on propagating that. We’d rather secure an Alice-IoT than a [insert brand name here]-IoT.

Relevant blog posts:


Accessibility & digital inclusion

We all have different digital, numerical, information and visual literacy, and millions of people have one or more disabilities, yet UI/UX designers cannot cater to this variety. UI can never aspire to be just right for Alice, no matter how diligent the design team. HI at least aspires to this aspiration!

The UK Business Disability Forum says:

We believe the hi:project has the potential to dramatically improve interaction in the digital space for the many millions of people who are already disabled and the millions more who will become disabled as they age.  For some people in this group the benefits could literally be life changing.


How will the hi:project work?

We introduce the technology below. It is a broad and deep but achievable challenge, and yet technology without the facility to get it out there is pointless …

How will Alice get herself some HI?

Attempting to get each and every Alice to download and configure HI is a hard slog, likely to fall way short of what’s needed for us to achieve our mission. Yet the hi:project is not blue sky thinking – we have identified the technical, social and commercial levers required to seed this capability with everyone with an Internet connection through the organizations that already feature in their lives.

Here’s the pitch to those organizations, likely starting with so-called challenger brands. National and local government may see similar appeal.

Would you like to give customers a far superior experience – one that builds participation, trust and loyalty, and secures market differentiation – with no loss of control, no capital expenditure, no intermediation, reduced risk and lower operating expense? And comply with data protection regulations?

We enable organizations to provide services through HI. An organization’s established suite of UI is more costly and more risky to maintain than adopting our HI, and switching costs are less than an iteration of your current solution.

We’re first, we’re synonymous with this development, and all instances are linked by trademark. Once Alice has experienced one of our trademark HIs we believe shey’ll demonstrate a preference for other products and services adopting HI. Alice becomes increasingly invested in her instance’s understanding and servicing of her needs and preferences.

The technology

The hi:project doesn’t require a eureka technology breakthrough, just the prodigious application of today’s Web standards and open tech. It’s been described as the democratization of the server.


From the 90s – Organizations present websites and apps customers can interact with. There’s limited or zero facility to wield data or personalize the experience and users must like it or lump it. 00s

From the 00s – Third parties connect users to each other and organizations, centralizing and intermediating relationships. Their UI and policies do not correspond with ours here. As the saying goes, the users are the product. 10s

From the 10s – HI is simple and powerful, the interface that’s ‘perfectly yours’. The network is decentralized and relationships are disintermediated. Data / info spanning organizations can be visualized and understood.

Click here for more information on the technology.


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