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Computer Weekly in the UK recently ran a brief report on PHP (Personal Home Page), an open source scripting language used to generate dynamic web pages and collect form data. PHP pages can also be linked to a wide range of databases. According to the article there are more than 1,000,000 sites using PHP today - the technology believed to have grown due to its users not wishing to learn the intricacies of Perl and also not wishing to be tied to particular web server technology. PHP4 can be downloaded from the PHP web site below, which also features tutorials and resources. 22/12/00
URL: Official PHP site http://www.php.net/
URL: PHP resources http://www.perfect.co.uk/do/develop/apachephp/
URL: PHP resources http://www.devshed.com/
A news release from O'Reilly has announced that RDF Site Summary (RSS) 1.0, an XML-based application enabling web sites to describe and syndicate site content and metadata, has been released. This is the first update to RSS since Netscape released version 0.91 in July,1999.
The RSS 1.0 Working Group is a development team of 12 members in three countries chaired by Rael Dornfest, researcher and developer at the O'Reilly Network. Working examples which apparently use RSS-based services include:
- Meerkat: a technical content syndicator drawing news and analysis from more than 200 channels.
- Moreover.com: "scrapes", cleans and categorises web pages, repacking the data into outgoing syndicated feeds.
- My Netscape Network: the original RSS site, now a general-purpose, customisable portal.
- My.Userland: aggregator of content focused on the Weblog community.
- XMLtree: registrar for XML (including RSS) content.
For those interested in researching RSS in greater detail see the following links. 19/12/00
URL: RSS 1.0 Specification Proposal http://purl.org/rss/1.0/
URL: RSS-DEV Working Group http://www.egroups.com/group/rss-dev/
URL: O'Reilly Network's RSS DevCenter http://www.oreillynet.com/rss/
URL: RSS information site http://www.blogspace.com/rss/
URL: Writing RSS 1.0, article http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2000/08/25/magazine/rss_tut.html
As the number of companies that offer web-based services increases exponentially into the millions, how do buyers looking for a specific service find all of the potential sellers who can meet their needs? And once buyer and seller have hooked up, how do they ensure that they can integrate their systems to manage transactions smoothly?
A new specification, called Universal Description, Discovery and Integration, or UDDI, the result of a project initiated by Microsoft, IBM and Ariba, and announced September 6, will allow companies to publish information about the web services they offer in a Universal Business Registry that will be accessible by anyone.
UDDI development is being coordinated by the UDDI Organisation which runs its own web site (see URL below). 20/09/00
URL: UDDI Organisation http://www.uddi.org/
URL: IBM resources http://www.ibm.com/services/uddi/
URL: Microsoft press release http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2000/sept00/09-06uddi.asp
XIOP is an open source project whose aim is to merge OMG Corba 2.3 / 3 with XML and HTTP technologies. The project is looking for volunteers to implement and review the specifications being developed. 16/06/00
Part 3 of a tutorial, "Transforming XML to PDF", which considers how to transform XML documents into high-quality, print-optimised PDF documents has been published. 02/06/00
URL: XML PDF tutorial (registration required) http://www6.software.ibm.com/reg/xml/transformxml-i/?open&l=xml-dev,t=gr,p=xmpdf3
URL: XML tools forum http://news.software.ibm.com/ibm.software.developerworks.xml.javatools
O'Reilly Network developer Rael Dornfest has created a tool that has become much more, and he has written about it in "Meerkat: An Open Service API".
Rael writes, "The future, is web APIs. I'm not talking here about Web applications themselves, but their public interfaces, those parts of themselves they choose to share."
His article explains why open APIs are the lifeblood of the web developer, and goes on to show how to create an Open Service web application, using real-life examples. You can subscribe to occassional email alerts informing of the articles and technologies covered by the O'Reilly Network from the URL below. 31/05/00
URL: article http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/rss/2000/05/09/meerkat_api.html
URL: O'Reilly Network http://www.oreillynet.com/
XML.com has been running a series of articles discussing XML browsing support in a number of market-leading browsers. In conclusion they have published a table showing a feature-by-feature comparison of Netscape 6, Opera 4 and MSIE 5.x.
In addition there is an article which looks at the styling language invented for use with SGML, DSSSL which has practical application in formatting XML documents for print. 09/05/00
A feature published by the XML.com web site, presents a technical introduction to the SOAP protocol - a protocol for remote procedure calls over the web. SOAP has been submitted to the IETF as an Internet Draft. The SOAP specification is also available online.11/02/00
URL: article http://xml.com/pub/2000/02/09/feature/index.html?wwwrrr_20000209.txt
URL: SOAP specification http://www.w3.org/TR/SOAP/
URL: SOAP specification http://msdn.microsoft.com/xml/general/soapspec-v1.asp
The Developer.com web site includes a feature entitled: "Unwrapping Microsoft's SOAP Toolkit" which explains how Microsoft wants XML and Windows to be the foundation for faster, easier web development. You can judge their success with this preview of their new SOAP Toolkit.
James Snell, author of an upcoming O'Reilly book on SOAP, provides a tutorial (on XML.com) for advanced users on creating web services. He outlines the various caveats with using the Microsoft SOAP toolkit, and includes sample code to get you started running your own SOAP servers. 19/07/00
URL: Developer.com http://developer.earthweb.com/journal/techfocus/070700_soap.html
URL: XML.com http://xml.com/pub/2000/07/12/soap/mssoaptutorial.html?wwwrrr_20000712.txt
News concerning an update to SOAP (version 1.1), a lightweight protocol for exchange of information in a decentralized, distributed environment. SOAP is an XML based protocol that consists of three parts: an envelope that defines a framework for describing what is in a message and how to process it, a set of encoding rules for expressing instances of application-defined datatypes, and a convention for representing remote procedure calls and responses.
SOAP can potentially be used in combination with a variety of other protocols - a document describing how to use SOAP in combination with HTTP and HTTP Extension Framework is available from the Microsoft XML developers pages. 03/05/00
URL: Microsoft Developers Network http://msdn.microsoft.com/
Microsoft has released SOAP Toolkit for Visual Studio 6.0 on the its developer programme web site (MSDN). The toolkit should enable developers using Visual Studio to build web services using SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol).
SOAP is being promoted as an open protocol that uses XML to provide a common messaging format to link together applications and services across the Internet. The protocol has been submitted to the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) recommendation process. 16/06/00
URL: SOAP Toolkit download http://msdn.microsoft.com/xml/general/soaptemplate.asp
URL: MSDN http://msdn.microsoft.com/
IBM is contributing its Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) technology, built in Java, to the Apache Software Foundation's open-source XML project. 16/06/00
Published on the XML developers mailing list, a link to IBM resources concerned with the SOAP protocol. 23/06/00
URL: IBM SOAP for Java http://www.alphaWorks.ibm.com/tech/soap4j
A mailing to the XML developers list stated that: "Portable Site Information is a language for creating web sites that are portable between different web content platforms. Our intent is to not only transfer data and pages but the whole site. We originally created it for a web project we're involved in but we thought PSI might be useful outside our narrow scope. PSI is primarily intended to be a XML repository between NetObjects and Midgard but leave the site dependent on neither. We might make a PSI import and export filter later".
The developers are interested to hear from anyone who considers that it has potential for "broader application".
URL: PSI glossary http://psilib.sourceforge.net/psintro.html
URL: PSI-lite DTD http://psilib.sourceforge.net/psilite.dtd
The W3C has published an article entitled: "Web architecture: exchanging and describing data" which addresses the concept of "the semantic web". The article attempts to draw together requirements, embodied in various of the work items and recommendation activities (many of which are outlined on these pages) under a unified theme (a unified data model for the web). A column in the Web Techniques magazine for June 1999, "Modeling, Metadata, and XML" considers similar ground.
URL: "Web architecture: exchanging and describing data" http://www.w3.org/1999/04/WebData
URL: "Modeling, Metadata, and XML"http://www.webtechniques.com/archives/1999/06/data/
The ICAP (Internet Content Adaptation Protocol) Forum is a group of vendors aiming to create a "protocol for value-added services over the Internet". The Forum is hoping to gain a consensus amongst its members to: "understand the problems that need to be addressed, and assist the standards community in the development of open standards". The Forum is working on the Internet Content Adaptation Protocol (ICAP) which it claims, "has the potential to enable a new class of value-added services by enabling site owners to offer web applications closer to the user".
The Forum have announced the completion of the first draft of the Internet Content Adaptation Protocol (ICAP). ICAP will be submitted to the Internet Engineering Task Force's (IETF) Web Replication and Caching (WREC) working group as an Internet draft, at the next WREC meeting.
According to the Forum, the proposed standard allows "enterprises, content providers and ISPs to seamlessly conduct e-services such as web page reformatting, targeted Web advertising, virus scanning, content filtering, data compression and language translation from any Internet access device".
Apparently the protocol is being used by Forum members in, "prototype e-services". 14/04/00
URL: contact ICAP Forum mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
People tend to think of the web primarily in terms of HTML and its new extension XML, the markup that is added to documents to enable them to be displayed in browsers. Behind this level is a whole architecture of protocols that are required to move the information between browsers over the Internet. One part of this is the HTTP protocol, that forms one of the alternatives at the front of the URL.
Work to improve HTTP has been carried out under the title HTTP-NG (for new generation) and recently this has entered a new phase with the publication of a proposed charter for an IETF HTTP-NG working group. The new protocol is a three layer approach, with the web interface at the top layer, the binary wire protocol that will compress and encrypt information at the next layer and a web multiplex layer that handles connection and communication at the bottom. The multiplexer is expected to provide virtual connections between client and server site rather than the system under HTTP 1.1 where a new connection is required for each web page or action at a site.
The W3C has published its approval of the fact that HTTP/1.1, along with the accompanying authentication specification, has been published as an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) draft standard. The purpose of HTTP/1.1 is to provide higher end-user performance while preserving the integrity and stability of the Internet, using features including persistent connections, pipelining, caching, and IP address preservation.
As important, the HTTP Digest Authentication mechanism, described in the accompanying HTTP Authentication specification, defines a method for authenticating a user to an HTTP server without exposing the user's passwords to potential eavesdroppers. This is an important step towards improving security on the web.
A news item on the News.com site reports on the standardisation of HTTP 1.1 protocol.
In order to address the growing problem of Web site logs and their analysis, Don Park, CTO at Docuverse is putting together a small and focused team of developers to work on the Extensible Log Format (XLF) specification. Once the specification is completed, the group is planning to encourage server companies as well as log analyzer companies to support the specification leading to a truely universal log format.
The problem of creating a log format based on XML is fairly interesting in its own right since it requires XML parsers with the ability to parse incrementally (logs are typically huge and practically never ending). To participate in this effort contact Don Park.
Windows Distributed interNet Architecture (Windows DNA) 2000, is described as "a comprehensive, integrated platform for building and operating distributed web applications". This latest version of DNA takes the Windows 2000 operating system as its cornerstone and will be optimised for a number of emerging Microsoft server technologies, including Commerce Server 4.0, BizTalk Server, AppCenter, SQL Server "Shiloh". The site address below links to white papers and resources concerning the revised software.
The Windows DNA Interoperability Center, is a resource site designed to make it easier for developers to create applications based on Windows DNA that tightly integrate with existing enterprise applications running on a variety of operating systems. Through the site, enterprise developers get access to sample applications, including an end-to-end e-commerce Windows DNA-based application that apparently "seamlessly integrates with Oracle8i, IBM DB2, IBM AS/400 and IBM CICS environments". The Microsoft Windows DNA platform provides interoperability services that allow integration at the network, data, application and management levels.
Active Server Pages (ASP) are becoming increasingly important as a tool to create browser-independent web content. "Developing ASP Components" is a new book from O'Reilly which develops the idea of creating re-useable ASP components. The book provides developers with information and real-world examples required to create custom ASP components using: Visual Basic, Visual C++, and J++. Further information about the book, including a table of contents, examples, and index, is available on the web.
ASPWatch.com has been launched as an information resource for professional ASP developers and includes articles, code downloads, an e-mail newsletter and an online bookstore.
"Overview of interactive programming methods for the World Wide Web", provides a useful overview of the key active content technologies along with links to additional resources.
According to Microsoft, its ActiveX technology (formerly Object Linking and Embedding - OLE) is now controlled by the vendor-neutral Open Group (under the umbrella of the aptly named Active Group). The Active Group's site provides a good place to start developing an understanding, as does the Microsoft ActiveX site.
- Browserwatch catalogues most of the commercially available ActiveX Controls
What more can we add! Useful first stops include:
- the Java Site run by its owners Sun
- Java frequently asked questions at the Sun site
- Java frequently asked questions (FAQ) archive
- Javasoft information on applets and their implementation
- Information on applets at Gamelan
- JavaWorld magazine
- An article in IEEE Computer ("If Java is the answer, What was the question?") and follow-up letters question Java's ability to handle synchronisation and avoid deadlock. Solutions based on Communicating Sequential Process methods developed by Hoare are proposed in Java Plug & Play (JavaPP). Full information on the JavaPP web site.
- Java: Introduction, How to Learn & Resources from WhoIsHostingThis.com
- Java Performance Report
- The Simplilearn online training site includes a useful page entitled: "Top 20 Online Resources to Learn Java Programming"
- Java Resources from Caltech Infospheres Project
- JavaLinks (TeamJava)
- The Open Group Java Program
Dynamic HTML was originally used to describe the customised pages generated by Server Side Includes. This HTML-on-demand was built with information received about the user's browser and operating system or in response to a client request. Essentially the HTML produced was in response to custom input but before downloading and display by the user's browser.
Today Dynamic HTML refers to technologies that allow documents to be changed after their initial display on the client machine, without server access, through user interaction and client-side scripting. Page elements can be displayed selectively, then modified, moved or replaced. This ability to move and replace objects allows for the animation of text and graphics. In turn, selective display and replacement can be used for database record retrieval.
The Document Object Model Working Group (see below) of the W3C will decide on the final standard. For more on Dynamic HTML see:
- "Dynamic HTML", O'Reilly and Associates
- URL: Dynamicdrive.com
- Dynamic HTML Index
- Dynamic HTML Zone
- Inside Dynamic HTML
- Dynamic HTML Lab
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Document Object Model (DOM) Level 1 Recommendation reflects cross-industry agreement on a standard API (Applications Programming Interface) for manipulating documents and data through a programming language (such as Java or ECMAScript).
The specification defines the foundation of a platform- and language-neutral interface to access and update dynamically a document's content, structure, and style. The DOM Level 1 provides a standard set of objects for representing HTML and XML documents and data, a standard model of how these objects may be combined, and a standard interface for accessing and manipulating them.
Whilst the W3C's HTML 4.0 provides authors with a standard way to embed scripts in a document, it does not specify how those scripts can manipulate the document's content, structure, and style. Several vendors already offer powerful mechanisms for doing so, but these mechanisms do not always work with different software packages. The DOM, on the other hand, defines a standard API that allows authors to write programs that work without changes across tools and browsers from different vendors.
URL: DOM http://www.w3.org/DOM/
URL: W3C http://www.w3.org/
SHOE is a superset of HTML which adds the tags necessary to embed arbitrary semantic data into web pages. Two categories of tags are defined:
- Tags for constructing ontologies - sets of rules which define what kinds of assertions SHOE documents can make and what these assertions mean. For example, a SHOE ontology might say that a SHOE document can declare that some data entity is a dog", and that if it does so, that this "dog" is permitted to have a "name".
- Tags for annotating web documents to subscribe to one or more ontologies, declare data entities, and make assertions about those entities under the rules proscribed by the ontologies. For example, a SHOE document subscribing to the SHOE ontology above might then declare that it's all about a dog named "Fido".
Designed with the needs of the web in mind, SHOE has limited semantics to make it possible to handle large amounts of data. SHOE can be used to embed data from a variety of sources and for a variety of purposes. Whilst it is not intended for any one particular function, it's design aids web robots and intelligent agents. It's developers are adament that SHOE is not intended as a meta-content language.
A selection of resources available on the web concerning CGI:
- CGI - Common Gateway Interface
- The Common Gateway Interface
- MicrosoftInternet Application Programming Interface (ISAPI)
- Send E-mail to CGI
- Writing a CGI Script Using Java - A Brief Tutorial
For a list of push technology suppliers see the web technology product page. Also a review of seven push software solutions is available from Internet World.
The "smart pull" capabilities (to call them "push" is really a misnomer) featured in Microsoft and Netscape products among others bring with them serious potential problems associated with bandwidth usage. Channel Definition Format (CDF) has been proposed by Microsoft as an Internet standard for the publishing of Web-standard channels. There is more on XML and metacontent on the Interoperability and standards topic page.
Multicast technology (as implemented in the INRIA WebCanal software - see below) however, provides a long-term solution to the problem of bandwidth congestion. Some authorities believe, multicast will really come into it's own when it is used to push multimedia data streams. The creation of:
- smart applications, that start when the stream is being pushed into the computer;
- and smart agents, that do content-based filtering underway,
are potential developments based on this foundation. Applications that immediately spring to mind are distributing:
- automatic software upgrades direct to clients
- business information
- multimedia content
Two key considerations for publishers wishing to implement such technologies are:
- how to use the multicast system to its best advantage,
- and how to create the multimedia streams most cost-effectively
There is a recent multicast FAQ at Multicast Tech. site which includes an online multicast tester. 19/07/01
A group formed by over 70 Internet/intranet product vendors, network service providers and broadcast content providers plans to drive wider-scale commercial use of IP Multicast on the Internet. IP Multicast is an increasingly popular communications protocol standard which enables the distribution of data over the Internet, intranets, satellite, cable systems and other telecommunication networks.
Demonstration proposals under consideration by the Initiative include a wide range of business productivity and entertainment applications in the areas of:
- Internet broadcasting,
- electronic software distribution,
- "push" technologies,
- multipoint conferencing
- PC-TV convergence
IPMI have run a proof-of-concept Multicast Video Channel, demonstrating that IP Multicast products and services are ready today to distribute high quality audio and video broadcasts over the Internet to TV-scale audiences.
Further details including white papers and a number of further resources are available from their web site.
There is a list of web push products, and their vendors along with links to their websites on the Product Information topic page.
GlobalCast Communications has submitted it's Reliable Multicast Transport Protocol-II (RMTP-II) to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as a Recommendation. The press release announcing the submission claims that: "RMTP-II allows Internet service providers (ISPs) to offer controlled quality of service (QoS) levels to content providers who deliver high-value information -such as financial data - to many recipients. This central management allows RMTP-II to simultaneously achieve very high performance, guaranteed delivery, and scalability". IP multicast is not inherently reliable as it does not use TCP and so further work is required to achieve lossless transmission.
RMTP-II is derived from RMTP, which was developed at Bell Labs by researchers, Sanjoy Paul and Krishan Sabnani. In August of 1997, GlobalCast and Lucent technologies formed a strategic partnership to further develop and promote RMTP with GlobalCast eventually incorporating the protocol into its commercial multicast product offering. RMTP is for 1-to-N reliable multicast (for example, reliable delivery of documents to a large group) and is based on e-cast from Lucent.
Scalable reliable multicast is another version of reliable muticast that works in an N-to-M environment (such as reliable group interworking) there is a web site covering work in this area that has many links to Multicast sites.
URL: e-cast http://www.bell-labs.com/project/e-cast/
URL: multicast links http://www-nrg.ee.lbl.gov/floyd/srm.html
URL: Globalcast http://www.gcast.com/
The Reliable Multicast Research Group holds regular international meetings, the last meeting (4th) in London in July - presentations at meetings are available on the web site.
WebCanal has been developed by INRIA using Java. The software consists of a set of networking packages and applications mainly for information distribution using IP Multicast.
This multicast push application includes: an information publisher and an information receiver. The publisher allows content providers to create push channels and broadcast information on these channels, while the receiver allows users to subscribe to multiple channels and receive the information of interest.
These applications are built on top of LRMP (light-weight reliable multicast protocol). In addition, channel information is also multicast, which INRIA claims makes it is easier to find new channels.
WebCanal networking packages include a Java implementation of RTP (real time transport protocol), LRMP, SAP/SDP (session announcement protocol) and more. They are all reusable for other applications and are available for download.
The Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) is a standard that allows end users to print to remote printers across the Internet. The standard is being developed through the Printer Working Group in accordance with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Companies actively participating in the IPP standards body include: Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, IBM, Sun, Novell and Xerox.
Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard are providing a beta version of the standards-based implementation of the Internet Printing Protocol in the third beta release of Windows 2000 Professional and Server. In addition, final versions of the Internet printing client, called Internet Printing Services, are available for Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows 98 and Windows 95. IPP can be used for sending documents to be printed at any Internet-connected printer. IPP 1.0 has yet to be approved as a standard by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).
A beta version of IPP is available in the third beta release of Windows 2000 Professional and Server. Final versions of Internet Printing Services are available for download for Windows 98 Second Edition, Windows 98 and Windows 95.
URL: IPP for Windows 98 Second Edition and Windows 98 http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com/
URL: IPP for Windows 95 http://www.microsoft.com/windows95/downloads/
URL: Hewlett-Packard's Internet printing solution http://www.hp.com/net_printing/ppss/ipt_info.html
Members of the Digital Imaging Group (DIG) are promoting the use of the Internet Imaging Protocol (IIP) specification for high-resolution photo images on the web. DIG is planning to release an open source Reference Implementation of the revised IIP, requesting comments from members, before presenting the specification for official standardisation by the W3C or IETF.
The consortium has also announced the DIG35 Initiative which is seeking ways to develop "a standard metadata architecture that is file-format independent" to enable better search and retrieval of digital images. The DIG is "an open-industry consortium created to expand the use of digital images across consumer, business and professional imaging markets and applications".
Internet.com has launched ISP-Planet, an information resource for Internet Service Provider (ISP) professionals. The ISP-Planet web site provides daily news, opinion, and advice from all quarters of the ISP community.
iSyndicate, a company offering web content syndication, has announced agreements with several new customers including Adobe, Caterpillar and 21 others. The sites of these new customers will now feature content, including feature articles and news, from iSyndicate's content sources which include Associated Press, The Industry Standard, and CBS SportsLine.com. With more than 500 third-party content sources to draw from, iSyndicate aggregates customised content packages for any type of business, integrating it into its customers web sites.
URL: iSyndicate http://www.isyndicate.com/
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