The VRML Repository
A standard language for describing interactive 3-D objects and worlds delivered over the Internet, the Virtual Reality Modeling Language is now in version 2.0. It is likely to attract increased attention and use among developers as Web pages achieve higher levels of sophistication.
The VRML Repository is a comprehensive resource, probably the best one-stop shop for VRML information. Maintained by the San Diego Supercomputer Center, three of its staff just released the second edition of their popular book, "VRML 2.0 Sourcebook" (ISBN 0-471-16507-7).
Those developers active in this phase of the Web will want to visit the home page to gather the call for participation in VRML '97, the second annual symposium on VRML.
An increasingly popular site on the Web, MapQuest carries an Interactive Atlas that allows you to find just about any place in the world.
There's also TripQuest, which gives you driving directions for the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico. You can even get door-to-door directions for many major metropolitan areas.
Especially noteworthy here are two important components of the Web: access to personalized, value-added information that brings users back again and again and the availability of options for Java or ActiveX in viewing information.
What do you get when you add Java and VRML? Liquid Reality, a tool kit from Dimension X. A set of Java class libraries with VRML functionality, the tool kit allows you to create viewers, tools and solutions that comply with the current version of VRML.
Take it another step and Liquid Reality can be used with ICE, the company's graphics library. You can even use Direct 3D as the graphics library on the Windows platform.
This site stretches the logic of the Web from its origins in HTML and it points to one of the several key directions and mutations in the future.
This site is required reading for anyone who aspires to be a world-class webmaster. John December is a font of understanding with his combination of skills, knowledge and talent. He lays out what you need to pursue successful Web development: six processes and six key Web elements. He also summarizes his method for creating World Wide Web-based hypermedia works, which he calls "webs." The discussion is based on his extensive writings. Not only is the information valuable, but it is a model of computer-mediated communication, one area of December's expertise.
With the ilk of Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison and others promoting the technology, the concept of ubiquitous computing is worth monitoring. Its father, Mark Weiser, once ran the Computer Science Laboratory at Xerox PARC and now is chief technologist. As Weiser describes it, "ubicomp" names the third wave in computing. He says, "First were mainframes, each shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era, person and machine staring uneasily at each other across the desktop. Next comes ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology recedes into the background of our lives." Ubicomp is the other end of the spectrum, since Weiser sees it as roughly the opposite of virtual reality.
Knowledge Discovery Mine
Along with VRML, Java and ubicomp, another major focus this year will be data warehousing and data mining. One of the better ways to keep afloat is by visiting the Knowledge Discovery Mine, the so-called Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery Resource center. Here you find a guide to commercial and public-domain tools for the job, as well as KDD Nuggets, a free electronic newsletter on Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery, and information about upcoming meetings, including the KDD-97 conference.
This list would not be valid without a reference to the World Wide Web Consortium, now the home of Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the Web concept. Carrying the tag line, "Realizing the Full Potential of the Web...," this site is the quickest shortcut to getting a sense of where the World Wide Web is headed.