Re: HTML should not be a file format, but an output format
Sat, 22 Mar 1997 17:00:05 -0500 (EST)

Date: Sat, 22 Mar 1997 17:00:05 -0500 (EST)
Message-ID: <>
Subject: Re: HTML should not be a file format, but an output format

For another perspective on "HTML should be an output format", check out 
Globetrotter Web Publisher designed with that philosophy in mind:
Of course, Globetrotter writes HTML right now because that's what the web 
uses, but if the web were to change overnight to a new language, 
Globetrotter users would just republish (as easy as reprinting a 
document) and go. (After of course upgrading to the new version of 
Globetrotter that writes the new output format.)

>A very large portion of the problems we have today with HTML and the Web
>stem from that precise problem - HTML is written by hand, on a per-document
>basis, by people. Why is this done? Mostly because most of today's web
>servers are based around a philosophy of document=file. People are used to
>having a Web Page (whatever that is in their minds) as a single HTML
>document which they create independantly, upload to a server and have people

In particular, Globetrotter rejects document=web page. After all, no one 
edits word processing documents with each page in a separate file. Can 
you imagine anyone believing that was the *right* way to do it? A single 
Globetrotter document (1 file) can publish many different HTML pages 
(many files) on the web.

>Let me put it in simple terms: a friend of mine asked me why he couldn't set
>up a hyperlink between two pages he created using Microsoft Word Internet
>Assistant. The "easy" answer was "well, you're going to upload the page to a
>Unix server and you have to make sure both files have correct permissions,
>the HREFs are case sensitive and that MWIA doesn't automatically insert
>an absolute URI pointing to a file on your hard disk which obviously could
>not be accessed once your page is uploaded". That kind of response would
>puzzle my friend enough to start with.

In Globetrotter, there's a simple answer to that. Links within a document 
that end up referencing anchors on separate HTML pages are automatically 
correct relative paths. Links between documents are also correct as long 
as either (1) the relative location of the two original documents match 
the relative location on the web or (2) you correctly tell Globetrotter 
the destination URL of the two documents (i.e., specify where the HTML 
pages are going to end up).

Apologies if anyone thinks this message is too self-serving. We've been 
trying to promote the "HTML should be an output format" message for quite 
some time and it's difficult. Most people just don't seem to get it. Most 
of the people publishing documents on the web are the early adopters who 
have been forced to learn HTML. There's some reluctance for them to 
accept that there might be easier ways to do things, that would deny them 
their web"master" status. My personal frustration is how many people are 
impressed with tools that basically just type < and > for you.

    --- Bruce Leban
    Akimbo Systems
    Publish on the web without learning HTML! (Really.)