World Wide Web Consortium Site is a Keeper
By John Makulowich
If we could start the World Wide Web all over again, I think most of us would dismiss the majority of sites now populating the Internet. The more interesting question is which ones we would keep.
At the top of my list, where it has been for most of the last several years, is the World Wide Web Consortium (www.w3.org) or W3C, the grandparent of all sites and the fortress of the founder of HTML, Tim Berners-Lee. Another site I would retain would be one started by Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web Virtual Library (vlib.org).
W3C's value is not as a relic, a historic landmark, a glimpse of the past. No, W3C is alive and kicking, alerting the Internet community to new and different tools for improving the Web.
The most recent example is the announcement of the SMIL (pronounced smile) "Boston" First Working Draft. That is the code name for the successor to W3C's XML-based synchronized multimedia language, SMIL 1.0.
As the Web site notes in a quote from Philipp Hoschka, chair of W3C's Synchronized Multimedia Working Group: "With SMIL Boston, anyone can make multimedia for the Web. Using your own digital snapshots and audio commentary, SMIL and a simple text editor, you can make multimedia presentations that can immediately go live."
For students alone, this is an initiative with incredible potential for reports in any discipline.
Equally important, and a sign of what is to come on the Internet, is the W3C announcement about XHTML 1.0, issued Aug. 24, as well as the release about the HTML 4.01 proposed recommendations.
As the W3C points out, XHTML 1.0 is the first major change to HTML since HTML 4.0 was released in 1997. According to the consortium, "It brings the rigor of XML to Web pages and is the keystone in W3C's work to create standards that provide richer Web pages on an ever-increasing range of browser platforms, including cell phones, televisions, cars, wallet-sized wireless communicators, kiosks and desktops."
Further, XHTML is modular. That makes it easier to combine with markup tags for vector graphics, multimedia, math and e-commerce. It also will allow providers to produce content more easily for a broader range of platforms and with more confidence about how the browser will render the content.
Perhaps most important, and signaled in the feature I wrote on XML in the Aug. 16 issue of Washington Technology, XHTML 1.0 reformulates HTML as an XML application. Not only will it make HTML easier to process and maintain, but also you can start using XHTML now, because existing browsers can interpret the code.
For those innovators and early adopters, you can download W3C's Open Source HTML Tidy utility, through which you can move your HTML documents into XHTML. According to the consortium, the Tidy utility cleans up markup errors, removes clutter and makes the markup easier to maintain. The Tidy utility is available at www.w3.org/People/Raggett/tidy/.
Finally, HTML 4.01 is a revision of the HTML 4.0 Recommendation first released Dec. 18, 1997. The revision fixes minor errors.
To contact John Makulowich, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; his Web address is www.cais.com/makulow/.