Re: Motif browser status

Tim Berners-Lee (timbl)
Fri, 8 Nov 91 13:35:26 GMT+0100

Date: Fri, 8 Nov 91 13:35:26 GMT+0100
From: timbl (Tim Berners-Lee)
Message-Id: <9111081235.AA04757@ >
Subject: Re: Motif browser status
Cc:, www-talk


Thanks for your message.  Obviously you know what you are doing with  
X11 browsers - we are impressed by what you have done to date. I was  
interested to hear that you are working on AVS - I have had some  
contact with AVS people at UNC.

You make a good point that the world has been waiting for a good  
formatted text widget under Motif. One exists under NeXTStep, Robert  
Cailliau is just adapting one for the Mac for hypertext, but under  
Motif it has been lacking.  Of course, hundreds of people have  
written them: all the word processors have them in, and products like  
dynaText, etc. However, there is none in the public domain.

CERN like Convex has a copyright on all code, but we are doing our  
best to release W3 code as widely as possible, and possibly overcome  
this limitation. Why?

The concept of the web is of universal readership. If you publish a  
document on the web, it is important that anyone who has access to it  
can read it and link to it. In order to make this possible, we don't  
need very new technology -- what we do need is

        1.      A common open naming/addressing format
        2.      Sufficiently powerful underlying protocols
        3.      Sufficiently powerful data formats
        4.      Some free implementations

Now we have defined the (1), which did not exist before. We have  
supplemented the (2), where some protocols do exist. We have added a  
little to (3) though we will use all existing and new formats. We  
have written some code.

You say your work would be of considerable valuer to convex. Yes,  
that is true. You must ask yourself whether it would be of more value  
to convex if kept private or released for general consumption. If you  
release it,

  -     Convex gets the credit and a higher profile,
          (as Thinking Machines has with WAIS indexers for example).

  -     Anyone in the world can read the information you supply
          with the same tool as they use for other information.

  -     You get a lot of useful feedback from users on the network

  -     A lot of people would be able to profit from what you have

You have to compare this scenario with that if you keep the code  
private. You will be able to use it internally. Would convex be able  
to profit from by selling it? If so, how many people would actually  
buy it? Will the AVS project benefit from a closed private  
documentation scheme?

On these grounds alone, you may conclude that it is in Convex's  
interest to release the code. Still, you ask what we can "put on the  
table".  If it would make it easier to justify the release of code,  
we would be happy to make all CERN-developed W3 code officially  
available to Convex under a more or less formal joint project  
agreement. Note that we are producing a parallel set of parsers and  
access mechanisms for HTML, newgroups, WAIS, prospero, etc. We have  
gateways, and other browsers. The line-mode browser you know, the Mac  
one is coming along, we may have a full-screen character grid browser  
too. We are currently unifying the browser architecture so that all  
access mechanisms can be used by all browsers. I'm not sure that  
either of our sides would want to be contractually bound to produce  
or maintain anything - the agreement would be just as-is code sharing  
of what exists when it exists, no strings.

You ask about graphics. That cannot be our next priority, as we need  
to get the new architecure and general format negociation worked out.  
In many cases, we find that there are GIF/TIFF viewers on various  
platforms, and one can link in to them. We don't want to make a new  
graphics file format a la Mac/PICT, but we are intrerested in  
conversion code. Have you heard of editable Postscript? That might be  
what you are looking for. (See

I don't know whether your company has a mechanism for allowing code  
to be released into the public domain (or General Public License). If  
it is politically impossible, then that's a pity.  (We do have a  
group of students in Finland working on an X implementation, and if  
that doesn't work out we could write it ourselves. It may also be  
that more that one implementation with a different style will be  
interesting. Obviously it would be rather a duplication of effort,  
though we are under a lot of pressure from our management and users  
to put this at the top of the agenda.)

I hope I have clarified the W3 team's philosophy, and perhaps  
convinced you to contribute, to our mutual (and the world's) benefit.


PS: Yes, I think you ought to be on www-talk, Dan. I'll put you on.  
The traffic is not too high.
Tim Berners-Lee             
World Wide Web project                (NeXTMail is ok)  
CERN                                  Tel: +41(22)767 3755
1211 Geneva 23, Switzerland           Fax: +41(22)767 7155