Adaptive hypermedia is a new direction of research within the area of user-adaptive systems. The earliest systems dates back to 1990, but most systems have been developed and described during the last three years (1993-1996). As Peter Brusilovsky (1996) points out, hypermedia has gained ground during the last few years as a tool for user-driven access to information. In particular, the wide-spread use of www (which is hypertext based) has set a de facto standard for documentation of various kinds. The simplicity of the hypermedia interaction model is part of why it has been so successful. The basic hypermedia model is quite simple. From a user perspective, all that can be done is to move between 'pages' of information by following 'links'. Usually, the pages of information consists of text and/or some ready-made pictures. Following a link is done by clicking on a hotword or clicking on some graphics. The result of the action is (usually) that we move to another page of information.
Unfortunately, hypermedia also has some serious drawbacks. When the information space grows to be very large, users easily get lost. 'Lost in hyperspace' has become a standard expression for what happens when the hyperspace is so large that it becomes hard to keep a model in the head of where in structure the user is at.
Another problem is how to design the information space to allow for users with different goals and needs to be able to navigate and retrieve information which is relevant to them.
According to Brusilovsky, (1996), adaptive hypermedia is useful when the system is expected to be used by people with different goals and knowledge and where the hyperspace is reasonably big. Users with different goals and knowledge may be interested in different pieces of information and may use different links for navigation. If the information space is large, an adaptive hypermedia system can help the user to search for and filter out the information most relevant to his/her needs, and thereby limiting the hyperspace.
Adaptive hypermedia is different from other kinds of adaptive systems, in that it marries the passive hypermedia information model with means to make systems actively adapt to the user. The systems implemented so far walk a middle-route between user-controlled and system-controlled information retrieval.
Some links related to adaptive hypermedia: