HTML 4.0, due year's end, to feature style sheets, new form controls
Now that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is living on Internet Time,
the international standards body is taking back some of the clout it
previously lost to vendors Netscape and Microsoft. After blessing versions
1.0 and 2.0 of HTML -- HyperText Markup Language, the Web's lingua franca
-- the Consortium found itself chasing consumer demand for graphics,
interactivity and page layout features. HTML 3.2, the current version, is
little more than a rubber stamp on advanced features in Netscape Navigator
and Microsoft Internet Explorer.To be fair, the Web was conceived as a
medium for sharing structured documents, not sexy layouts mottled with
multimedia advertising. HTML was never intended to specify detailed
presentation. The W3C deserves credit for practicing good software
discipline, cleaving to the medium's original requirements definition.
Charter W3C members like Dave Raggett, co-author of HTML since version 2.0,
deserve greater credit still for recognizing the Web's market-driven change
in scope and adapting. Raggett is now a leading proponent of HTML 4.0,
which he expects to pass from review to adoption "in a few months."
The upgrade boasts a number of presentation-oriented features, including:
(a) Style sheets, long a staple of Microsoft's browser, will bring flexible
layout customization to the Web
(b) Table and frame enhancements
(c) Standard object embedding will help resolve disparities between the
EMBED and OBJECT tags
While the W3C is newly adaptive in its role as standards bearer, much of
the innovation in HTML 4.0 is still vendor-driven. A majority of the new
standard's features, for example, are already present in Netscape Navigator
4.0. And Microsoft claims its IE 4.0 Preview 2 is "99%" HTML 4.0-compliant.
Moreover, standardization on some fronts will not heal rifts elsewhere.
Microsoft continues to push its Active Platform agenda, more as a
replacement for than an extension of the Web. Embedded scripting and applet
technologies provide develppers with powerful workarounds for any markup
standard. And the extensible XML standard, aggressively backed by both
Netscape and Microsoft, threatens to supercede any closed standard such as
It's tough to be the parent in the playground. But Web users everywhere are
better for the W3C's efforts to referee the clash of the titans.
--- Rohit Khare /// MCI Internet Architecture (BOS) /// firstname.lastname@example.org Voice+Pager: (617) 960-5131 VNet: 370-5131 Fax: (617) 960-1009