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Title: The%20Latest%20Web%20Developments

The Latest Web Developments
  • Brian Kelly
  • UK Web Focus UKOLN
  • University of Bath
  • Bath, BA2 7AY

Email URL http//
UKOLN is supported by
About Me
  • Brian Kelly
  • UK Web Focus a JISC-funded post to advise HE
    and FE communities on Web developments
  • Based in UKOLN (UK Office for Library and
    Information networking) a small applied
    research organisation in University of Bath
  • Involved in Web since 1993, while working in
    Computing Service at University of Leeds
  • Close links with Computing Service and Library

About You
  • What is your involvement with the Web?
  • What topics would you like covered today?

Possible Interests
Web applications
File formats
Content Management Systems
Legal issues
When is it going to stabilise?
Whats happening to HTML?
Web browsers
Web Standards
Netscape or Microsoft?
Web Architectures
Open source vs licensed apps
Web Applications
Web Services
  • Standards and the Web
  • The Original Web Architecture
  • The Problems
  • Architectural Developments
  • Metadata
  • New Developments
  • Deployment Issues
  • Discussion

Standards, Architectures, Applications, Resources
  • This talk touches on several areas

Architectures models for implementing systems
Standards concerned with protocols and file
Which standards are applicable NT / Unix File
system / database application HTML tools /
content management
Open standards vs. Proprietary HTML / XML vs.
Applications software products used to implement
Resources financial and staff costs needed to
implement systems
Apache / IIS FrontPage / Dreamweaver Oracle /
SQLServer ColdFusion vs ASP
Development vs. Migration costs Use of in-house
expertise In-house vs. out-sourced Licensed vs.
open source
  • Need for standards to provide
  • Platform independence
  • Application independence
  • Avoidance of patented technologies
  • Flexibility ("evolvability" - Tim Berners-Lee)
  • Architectural integrity
  • Long-term access to data
  • Ideally look at standards first, then find
    applications which support the standards
  • Difficult to achieve this ideal!

Deployment Issues
  • What part of the spectrum are you closest to?

Must support standards
Go with the marketplace
I Support Standards
  • But
  • You probably use PowerPoint, don't you?
  • Software vendors will subtly suck you into use of
    proprietary features
  • Home-grown solutions can be expensive (where are
    all the good Perl / C programmers willing to work
    on short-term contracts for a pittance in
  • Standards may not take off remember Coloured
    Book network protocols?
  • Proprietary solutions may become standardised
  • Standards may not yet be available (or finalised)
  • Do users want standards? Will "We support
    standards" conflict with "Our services are based
    on user requirements"?

I Follow The Marketplace
  • Good New Labour philosophy, but
  • Can you trust your software vendor?
  • Will your software vendor be around in a few
    years time ("I only buy Rover")
  • Will your system be interoperable?
  • What happens when you want to interwork with
    partners or your organisation merges / is taken
  • What happens when you want to extend your system
    beyond the limits set by your software vendor?

IBM was the market leader in the 1970s, but lost
out in the PC revolution What will happen if
Microsoft is split in two?
Some Difficulties
  • We should acknowledge some difficulties in a
    standards-based approach
  • Keeping up-to-date (look at nos. of documents at
    http// and size of
  • Spotting the winning standards
  • Implementing the standard in a timely way
  • Dealing with the problems of the software vendor
  • Resources!

  • Other
  • Standards bodies such as ECMA
  • Community groups which can agree on, say, profiles

HTML extensions PDF and Java?
  • Proprietary
  • De facto standards
  • Often initially appealing (cf PowerPoint)
  • May emerge as standards
  • W3C
  • Produces W3C Recommendations on Web protocols
  • Managed approach to developments
  • Protocols initially developed by W3C members
  • Decisions made by W3C, influenced by member and
    public review

PNG HTML Z39.50 Java?
  • ISO
  • Produces ISO Standards
  • Can be slow moving and bureaucratic
  • Produce robust standards
  • IETF
  • Produces Internet Drafts on Internet protocols
  • Bottom-up approach to developments
  • Protocols developed by interested individuals
  • "Rough consensus and working code"

HTTP URN whois
World Wide Web Consortium
  • Much of the development of Web standards is being
    coordinated by the W3C
  • W3C (World Wide Web Consortium)
  • International consortium, with headquarters at
    MIT, INRIA and Keio University (Japan)
  • Coordinates development of web protocols
  • Four domains
  • Architecture Technology Society
  • User Interface Web Accessibility

The Web Vision
  • Tim Berners-Lee's vision for the Web
  • Automation of information management If a
    decision can be made by machine, it should
  • All structured data formats should be based on
  • Migrate HTML to XML
  • All logical assertions to map onto RDF model
  • All metadata to use RDF

A useful overview of Tim Berners-Lee's vision for
the Web is given in his book Weaving The Web.
How Does The Web Work?
  • The Web has 3 fundamental concepts
  • URLs addresses of resources
  • HTTP dialogue between client and server
  • HTML format of resources

1 User clicks on link to the address
(URL) http//
The Netsoft home page
2 Browser converts link to HTTP command
(METHOD) Connect to computer at GET /hello.html
Welcome to Netsoft
3 Remote computer sends file
ltHTMLgt ltTITLEgtWelcomelt/TITLEgt.. ltPgtWelcome to
ltBgtNetsoft lt/Bgt
Web server
Web Browser (client)
4 Local computer displays HTML file
Web Protocols
  • Web initially based on three simple protocols
  • Data Formats HTML (HyperText Markup Language)
    provides the data format for native documents
  • Addressing URLs (Uniform Resource Locator)
    provides an addressing mechanism for web
  • Transport HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol)
    defines transfer of resources between client and

Transport HTTP
HTML 4.0, CSS 2.0 DOM 1.0
  • HTML 4.0 used in conjunction with CSS 2.0
    (Cascading Style Sheets) and DOM 1.0 provides an
    architecturally pure, yet functionally rich
  • HTML 4.0
  • Improved forms
  • Hooks for stylesheets
  • Hooks for scripting languages
  • Table enhancements
  • Better printing
  • CSS 2.0
  • Support for all HTML formatting
  • Positioning of HTML elements
  • Multiple media support
  • DOM 1.0
  • Document Object Model
  • Hooks for scripting languages
  • Permits changes to HTML CSS properties and
  • CSS Problems
  • Changes during CSS development
  • Netscape IE incompatibilities
  • Continued use of browsers with known bugs

  • CSS
  • Cascading Style Sheets
  • An open standard developed by W3C
  • Separates document structure (defined in
    HTML/XML) from the appearance
  • Makes maintenance of resources much easier

body background blue h1 font-family arial
p font-family times text-align justify
ltlink rel"style" src"sty.css" lth1gtHeadinglt/h1gt lt
Imagine 10,000 HTML files ..
With 1 CSS file
  • HTML 4.0 / CSS 2.0 have limitations
  • Difficulties in introducing new elements
  • Time-consuming standardisation process (ltABBREVgt)
  • Dictated by browser vendor (ltBLINKgt, ltMARQUEEgt)
  • Area may be inappropriate for standarisation
  • Covers specialist area (maths, music, ...)
  • Application-specific (ltSTUD-NUMgt)
  • HTML is a display (output) format
  • HTML's lack of arbitrary structure limits
  • Find all memos copied to John Smith
  • How many unique tracks on Spice Girls CDs

  • XML
  • Extensible Markup Language
  • A lightweight SGML designed for network use
  • Addresses HTML's lack of evolvability
  • Arbitrary elements can be defined
    (ltSTUDENT-NUMBERgt, ltPART-NOgt, etc)
  • Agreement achieved quickly - XML 1.0 became W3C
    Recommendation in Feb 1998
  • Support from industry (SGML vendors, Microsoft,
  • Support in Netscape 6 (?) and IE 5

XML Concepts
  • Well-formed XML resources
  • Make end-tags explicit
  • Make empty elements explicit ltimg ... /gt
  • Quote attributes ltimg src"logo.gif" height"20"
  • Use consistent upper/lower case
  • Valid XML resources
  • Need DTD
  • XML Namespaces
  • Mechanism for ensuring unique XML elements
  • lt?xmlnamespace ns"http// 1998-001"
  • ltpgtInsert ltiPARTgtM-471lt/iPARTgtlt/pgt

More XML Developments
  • Momentum behind XML is driving additional
    standardisation developments
  • XML Path A language for addressing parts of an
    XML document, designed to be used by XSLT and
  • XML Schemas (Ii) Defining the nature of XML
    schemas and their component parts
  • XSLT A language for transforming XML documents
    into other XML documents

  • Extensible Hypertext Markup Language
  • HTML represented in XML
  • Some small changes to HTML
  • Elements in lowercase (ltpgt not ltPgt)
  • Attributes must be quoted (ltimg src"logo"
  • Elements must be closed (lt p p gt)
  • Empty elements must be closed (ltimg src"logo" .
  • Gain benefits from XML
  • Tools available (e.g. HTML-Kit from
  • See lthttp// column6/gt,
    lthttp// group/XHTML-L/gt and
    lthttp// issue27/web-focus/gt

  • HTTP/0.9 and HTTP/1.0
  • Design flaws and implementation problems
  • HTTP/1.1
  • Addresses some of these problems
  • 60 server support
  • Performance benefits! (60 packet traffic
  • Is acting as fire-fighter
  • Not sufficiently flexible or extensible
  • Radical redesign using object-oriented
  • Undergoing trials
  • Gradual transition (using proxies)
  • Moving slowly

  • URLs (e.g. http//www.bristol-poly
    sic/) have limitations
  • Lack of long-term persistency
  • Organisation changes name
  • Department shut down or merged
  • Directory structure reorganised
  • Inability to support multiple versions of
    resources (mirroring)
  • URNs (Uniform Resource Names)
  • Proposed as solution
  • Difficult to implement (no W3C activity in this

Addressing - Solutions
  • PURLs (Persistent URLs)
  • Provide single level of redirection
  • DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers)
  • Proposed by publishing industry as a solution
  • Aimed at supporting rights ownership
  • Business model needed
  • OpenURLs
  • Address mirroring issues
  • Pragmatic Solution
  • URLs don't break - people break them
  • Design URLs to have long life-span
  • Further information
  • ltURL http//
  • ltURL http//

  • Metadata - the missing architectural component
    from the initial implementation of the Web
  • Metadata Needs
  • Resource discovery
  • Content filtering
  • Authentication
  • Improved navigation
  • Multiple format support
  • New devices
  • Rights management

Metadata Examples
  • DSig (Digital Signatures initiative)
  • Key component for providing trust on the web
  • DSig 2.0 will be based on RDF and will support
    signed assertion
  • This page is from the University of Bath
  • This page is a legally-binding list of courses
    provided by the University
  • P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences)
  • Developing methods for exchanging Privacy
    Practices of Web sites and user
  • Note that discussions about additional rights
    management metadata are currently taking place

  • RDF (Resource Description Framework)
  • Highlight of WWW 7 conference
  • Provides a metadata framework ("machine
    understandable metadata for the web")
  • Based on ideas from content rating (PICS),
    resource discovery (Dublin Core) and site mapping
  • Based on a formal data model (direct label
  • Applications include
  • cataloging resources resource discovery
  • electronic commerce intelligent agents
  • intellectual property rights privacy
  • See ltURL http// Talks/1998/0417-WWW7-

RSS An RDF Application
  • RSS (Rich Site Summary)
  • Now an RDF application
  • Used for news feeds
  • Of interest to JISC (DNER architecture)
  • Lightweight approach that we should be

See example of an RSS authoring tool and parser
at lthttp// Note this
service uses CGI a JavaScript solution is also
being developed.
RDF Conclusion
  • RDF is a general-purpose framework
  • RDF provides structured, machine-understandable
    metadata for the Web
  • Metadata vocabularies can be developed without
    central coordination
  • RDF Schemas describe the meaning of each property
  • Signed RDF is the basis for trust
  • But
  • Is RDF too complex?
  • Will it gain acceptance in the market place?
  • The jury is till out

Other Web Developments
  • Many Web standards developments are taking place
    outside W3C
  • UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and
    Integration) a way of describing Web services
    in a machine readable way to facilitate location
    of services by agents. See lthttp//
  • Biztalk a framework for developing XML schemas
    for B2B applications. See lthttp//www.biztalk.or
  • SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) - an XML
    protocol for exchange of information See

New Web Areas
  • Initially the Web provided
  • An open environment for
  • sharing information
  • And aimed to
  • provide a rich publishing and collaborative
  • The Web is now
  • Widely used in closed environments (Intranets and
    Extranets, for ecommerce, etc.)
  • Addressing the missing components from the
    original architecture
  • Addressing universally by providing the
    infrastructure for support of new devices

Example 1
  • E-commerce
  • Requires trust
  • Requires security
  • Is there a viable business model?
  • Developments
  • Digital signatures
  • Public Key Infrastructure
  • Athens and Sparta in UK HE

The Mobile Web
Example 2
  • The Mobile Web
  • Much hype at present
  • Have you used it?
  • Is it usable on such a small screen with slow
    network times?
  • What about the resources need to build a WAP site
    and a Web site

The Mobile Web Comments
  • Store resources in neutral format (XML) and
    generate WAP and Web
  • XML open storage format
  • XSLT Transform XML

XSLT rules
XSLT engine
Ebook format
WML file for WAP
XHTML for Web
3G promises multimedia and faster networks
Is It Worth It?
  • Has the Web stabilised?
  • Are you thinking about WAP services?
  • Will you want to (be forced to) make your Web
    service accessible?
  • Will you want to deploy personalised interfaces
  • Will your web service move from information
    provision to e-business?
  • Do you want your University web site to use
    business-to-business (B2B) protocols to automate
    transfer of link and news items to HERO?

What Should I Do?
  • How can I best exploit new developments?
  • Storing information in a structured format makes
    subsequent redevelopment easier
  • Be driven initially by standards and
    architectural considerations, not by applications
  • Consider use of more sophisticated web management
    tools, rather than HTML authoring tools
  • An organisational standards guidelines document
    (part of a Web Strategy document) may be useful
  • Don't work in isolation
  • Monitor standards development (e.g. W3C)
  • Listen to others in your community
  • Talk and discuss issues within your community

  • Authoring Web pages
  • Was easy
  • Becoming more difficult as Web becomes more
  • More difficult to maintain
  • For large Web sites there is a need for
  • More sophisticated tools e.g. content management
  • Tailoring content for devices?

Architectural Models
  • There is a need for more intelligent software
    which can process structured resources or
    reformat unstructured ones

Web server simply sends file to client File
contains redundant information (for old browsers)
plus client interrogation support
HTML resource
Web server
HTML / XML / database resource
Intelligent Web server
Client proxy
Server proxy
  • Intermediaries can provide functionality not
    available at client
  • DOI support
  • XML support
  • Format conversion

Architectural Models e.g. XML Deployment
  • Ariadne issue 14 has article on "What Is XML?"
  • Describes how XML support can be provided
  • Natively by new browsers
  • Back end conversion of XML - HTML
  • Client-side conversion of XML - HTML / CSS
  • Java rendering of XML
  • Examples of intermediaries

See http//
  • To conclude
  • The Web will continue to develop
  • Standards are important
  • Proprietary solutions are often tempting because
  • They are available
  • They are often well-marketed and well-supported
  • They may become standardised
  • Solutions based on standards may not be properly
    supported by applications
  • Metadata is big growth area
  • Intermediaries may have a role to play in
    deploying standards-based solutions
  • There is a continual need to keep informed

  • Any questions?