Advancing Web Authoring and App Development

by Antoine Quint

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The W3C is organizing a workshop on Web Applications and Compount Documents. Some of you may breathe loudly in relief and think "finally!" and some of you may well just wonder what the hell this is for!

This workshop is about two individual topics that could benefit from a general thought process from interested parties in the community. As you probably know, the W3C has recommended quite a few bitching specifications aiming at solving different problematics for authoring contents for the World Wide Web which quite rapidly also became building blocks for developing Web Applications: HTML then XHTML, SMIL, SVG, XForms, etc. Add to this specs like CSS, XSLT, XML Schemas, XBL, etc.

Ideally, all these specifications, with the help of their XML foundations, were leaving the door open for mutual integration with the concept of namespaces which should let you solve multiple document authoring problematics with the right technology all within a single document. This works pretty well when a mixed-namespace document is consumed by a processor that will probably not render the document and only look up the XML structure and data.

However, in practice, it has been found that the rules for integration were often under-defined — if defined at all — in the context of rendering this type of document, say when a human being opens the said document in a web browser. For instance, how can you reconcile different rendering models, event flows, etc? This all is made more difficult by the hope that all this negociation should be done in a magical, transparent manner to the consumer of the document.

Another issue too is that when authors find a way to hack up the right bits and bolts into one document, they probably take different approaches to the development of a Web Application, and maybe it would be desirable to have a common framework or approach. I won't list more issues here as there are really quite a few of them and I'm sure that a lot of you here have enough background in authoring both documents and applications for the WWW to know most of these.

So this workshop is a good opportunity to get the ball rolling and defining the real hot topics and use cases and ultimately the requirements and maybe even W3C recommendations for what the XML-on-the-client Web should turn out to be. Better still, you get the chance to share your views as this workshop is open to the public. Time to speak up and make a valuable contribution from your valuable experience.

Does it sound like the right time for such a workshop? Do you think the W3C can/should help in these matters?