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RE: Question

From: Doug Mcneil <mcneil@nortelnetworks.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2003 09:56:41 -0500
Message-ID: <E380A44D523BD5118EAE0002A52CE5C404A11CCF@zcard0k8.ca.nortel.com>
To: www-forms@w3.org

I think, as usual, that the reality lies somewhere in between (how is that
for wishy-washy -:). My experience is that a limited number of industry
standard Plug-ins (de-facto rarely de-jure) get adopted by most IT
departments. Either because they have demonstrated valuable functionality
(PDF, Flash?) or the user community vociperously complains if denied access
(RealAudio). These are typically bundled into the supported application
suite tested and maintained by IT. Getting another Plug-in into the pipeline
is a difficult and time consuming process. Even an upgrade to an existing
Plug-in is problematical.

Failing rapid introduction of XForms by Microsoft into IE I see two
alternatives: 1) Trogan Horse Plug-in - either Adobe or Macro Media release
XForms versions of Acrobat or Flash respectively; or 2) server-side XForms.

Neither of these alternatives provide seemless XForms support. The third
alternative although unlikely IMHO is the dedicated XForms Plug-in. Such
Plug-ins will have limited acceptance in limited deployments. The major
sources will be the open-source community, vendors who attach their star to
standards (AOBM) and the odd large corporation with CIO willing to go out on
a limb.

I have a decision along these lines to make in the next six months. Although
I do not like the thought of living with the consequences I lean towards the


Doug McNeil
Product Supportability
Nortel Networks

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Birbeck [mailto:Mark.Birbeck@x-port.net]
Sent: Thursday, February 20, 2003 9:21 AM
To: 'Sikora, Gary'; www-forms@w3.org
Subject: RE: Question


> Yes, all of this can be accomplished with plug-ins.  However, many
> corporations and Federal agencies do not allow their staff to freely
> download plug-ins because of security and platform compatibility reasons
> - argh, that system administrator.

I think there are two different models here. The 'old' model is what you are
referring to, where developers have added some clever functionality to their
web pages with ActiveX or whatever, and as you rightly say these downloads
would never get past most corporate firewalls.

But the 'new' model is that there are a small and manageable number of
quality plug-ins that meet specific needs, and given that these plug-ins are
'players' they tend to only need installing once, whilst providing the
developers with a great deal of customisable functionality.

Once an administrator has decided to adopt a particular plug-in then it is a
simple task to either place it inside the firewall, or install it on each
machine. This is what most people do for Acrobat, Flash, SVG and so on, and
I think XForms will fall into the same category. It will be a one-off
decision by the administrator, not an arbitrary day-to-day decision by users
'freely downloading'.

(I could go on for hours about the 'myth of the thin client' - just take a
look at the amount of software we have on our machines to 'play' audio,
video, images, SVG, spreadsheets, RTF documents, PDF, etc., etc. That's the
'thin client' you need these days, just to work on the internet.)

> So, to create content that is truly accessible by the masses, a
> server-side solution is the answer.

Our first XForms processor was a server-side one, but we decided it wasn't
worth the effort, since you don't get a great deal of extra functionality.
Yes it's true, you do get a standard way of expressing your forms before
conversion, but hasn't everyone got one of those anyway?
At some point you have to convince people that the additional functionality
they achieve is worth the download. And I have to say that when people see
some of our sites, with XForms, MathML and SVG on the same page, all
interacting with each other, it's difficult for them to go back to their
boring old web pages!

One final point about the adoption and uptake of XForms; I agree with you
that we want to make XForms 'accessible to the masses' of users, but I also
want to see it made 'accessible to the masses' of developers, in much the
same way that HTML was usable with notepad and the refresh button.

For that to happen you need a solution that doesn't rely on the individual
developer having a server - which incidentally is the major motivation
behind the free plug-in we have developed.



Mark Birbeck
Co-author Professional XML and
Professional XML Meta Data,
both by Wrox Press

Download our XForms processor for IE
at http://www.FormsPlayer.com/

Managing Director
x-port.net Ltd.
4 Pear Tree Court

E: Mark.Birbeck@x-port.net
W: www.x-port.net
T: +44 (20) 7689 9232
Received on Thursday, 20 February 2003 09:58:27 UTC

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