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Web application interfaces

From: Paul Prescod <paul@prescod.net>
Date: Fri, 13 Sep 2002 10:05:03 -0700
Message-ID: <3D821ABF.6090408@prescod.net>
To: www-talk@w3.org

There are various sites around the Web all complaining about the same 
thing and proposing variations of the same solution. Roughly, they want 
to be able to build sophisticated client side applications without 
constantly going back to the server. They want hierarchical menu 
widgets, drag-and-drop, sliders, tabbed-notebooks, icon view widgets, 
etc. etc. I could list a hundred projects that claim to free us from the 
tyranny of text-oriented HTML pages:

  * DOMAPI
  * DynAPI
  * Netwindows
  * Browser-based application Toolkit
  * Jude
  * ...

Each one "hacks up" rich application UI constructs in a different way. I 
don't mean to disparage the projects. When you force a platform (i.e. 
page-oriented HTML) to do something it wasn't designed to do, you are 
hacking, no matter how elegant the result. These controls tend to be 
very browser-specific and fragile. They make no pretence of device 
independence (even though a menu or notebook construct might actually 
make sense on alternate devices). Most of them treat HTML as display 
postscript.

And then there are a bunch of projects to define standards for XML-based 
interfaces (XUL, WSUI, UIML, ...).

It seems clear that the Web is going to evolve into a rich-client 
application platform but there will be a variety of different toolkits 
to choose from, each with a slightly incompatible behaviour. It will be 
like the fragmented early days of X-Windows with no standardization, 
poor inter-app interoperability and no style guidelines.

Should there be a working group with the responsibility to clean up this 
situation? I don't think we need to expect HTML to grow into a rich 
client-app language: the work could be spun off as SVG and forms were.

Opinions?

  Paul Prescod
Received on Friday, 13 September 2002 16:11:45 GMT

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