WWW6: Everyone, Everything Connected

Volume 13, Number 2, June 1997
By Jason Mathews

The Sixth International World Wide Web Conference (WWW6) was held by Stanford University and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California on April 7-11, 1997. "Everyone, everything connected" was the theme of the conference, where researchers from commercial and educational laboratories presented papers about the future of the Web. The conference proceedings and other on-line information can be found at the URL http://www6conf.slac.stanford.edu/.

This was the sixth conference in a series of international conferences sponsored by the International World Wide Web Conference Committee (IW3C2), which represents the very heart of Web technology. During the week-long conference many innovative papers were presented, and the future of the Web was discussed, including such topics as Internet standards, Java, security, privacy, and, of course, "accessibility," which was a main part of the conference theme. This article highlights NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Java interface, some of the best papers presented at the conference, a good web design panel, cascading style sheets, dynamic HTML, eXtended Markup Language, HTTP, security, and the history of the Web.

The previous conference, WWW5 in Paris, France, was the largest Web conference to date with an attendance of just under 3,000 and a huge industrial exhibition. Each Web conference exceeded the size of the previous conference except this time, where there was a noticeably smaller crowd of around 1,600 attendees. This lower attendance was probably due to the simultaneous occurrence of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) & Hypertext '97 Conference in the U.K. and the proximity to the Java One conference, which was on the preceding week also in Silicon Valley, California. Despite the smaller scale of the conference, many new ideas were shared among the pioneers of this field.

Applications

One of the most interesting Java applications mentioned was one from the Goddard Space Flight Center, which is a real-time display system for Hubble Space Telescope operational control center. This application was created by Jeff Johnson (See http://ccs.gsfc.nasa.gov/ccspages/exchange/cots/java_eval.html for details). This was first announced in a live demonstration at the Java One conference.

Papers

The best papers presented at the conference include the following:

All of the papers and posters are part of the hyperproceedings, which are available via the conference Web site at http://www6conf.slac.stanford.edu/ and http://proceedings.www6conf.org/.

Good Web Design Panel Session

The session on Web design was very popular with a large audience of well over 100 people with a mix of programmers and graphics designers. Panelists included Jakob Neilson (Sun), David Seigel (a leading Web designer), Cathy Gill (HTML Writer's Guild), and others.

Other panelists and members of the audience made the following comments.

Following the request for examples of good Web design, David Seigel mentioned his Highfive site at http://www.highfive.com/.

Technology Highlights

As with the past Web conferences this conference was no different in allowing research organizations and companies to showcase their latest and greatest. The following are just a few upcoming topics that are of interest to NASA and the Internet community in general.

Cougar (Next Generation of HTML)

W3C's next version of HTML is called Cougar, which will include extensions such as rich forms and interactive documents, the ability for pages to be changed dynamically via scripting, frames, and subsidiary windows. See http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/MarkUp/Cougar/.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)

CSS is similar to a desktop publishing language that controls the presentation of elements. This standard will try to prevent HTML tag abuse and proprietary elements (Netscape- and Microsoft-browser-specific). CSS supports floating table elements, font/background control, colors, margins, borders, and padding. CSS will replace all HTML extensions and most of the current uses of tables. CSS is supported in MIE 3.0 and Netscape 4.0 alpha PR2. See http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/MarkUp/Cougar/ for details.

Dynamic HTML

Netscape and Microsoft seek to extend the document object model of an HTML document in a uniform manner to allow greater interactivity at the client, but there is some confusion in the definition of dynamic HTML (DHTML).

Netscape defines DHTML as HTML (including its own extensions), JavaScript, and Java, in addition to an object model for HTML documents. In the new Netscape 4.0 Alpha Communicator, dynamic HTML controls the presentation of content where any element can be a subcollection of HTML elements and layered on top or next to each other. Absolute positioning allows content designers to specify precisely where a block of HTML (which can contain images, links, rich text, plug-ins, and applets) is placed on a page using x and y coordinates. Layering allows designers to specify the z-order of objects so that blocks of HTML can be layered above or below other blocks of HTML. See http://search.netscape.com/comprod/products/communicator/features/Dynamic_HTML/html.

Microsoft defines DHTML as four things:

See http://www.microsoft.com/workshop/prog/aplatfrm/dynhtml-f.htm

The W3C Object Model Working Group defines DHTML clearly as the object model and the generic script interface that it enables. This group's goal is to make any element in a document addressable in a uniform way, for example, being able to address a style property of a specific H3 subhead element in scripts or from an external program. See http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/MarkUp/DOM/ for details.

eXtended Markup Language (XML)

XML is a clean subset of SGML that would be a richer document format than HTML that will complement and NOT replace the existing HTML infrastructure. Netscape and Microsoft have embraced this new standard, but the question is whether or when extensions to XML will fuel the battle of the browsers.

In short, XML is

See http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/TR/WD-xml-lang.html.

HTTP 1.1

The W3C has created and tested a prototype client/server implementation that has left the standard HTTP 1.0 in the dust or nearly so. HTTP 1.1 and the other newer technologies such as CSS (mentioned above) and Portable Network Graphics (PNG) can make the Web as much as two to eight times faster. W3C states that "HTTP/1.1 will significantly change the character of traffic on the Internet (given HTTP's dominant fraction of Internet traffic), with significantly larger mean packet sizes, more packets per TCP connection, and drastically fewer packets that are not subject to flow control (by elimination of most packets due to TCP open and close). "

See http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Protocols/HTTP/Performance/.

Security

Sun announced a new security model in Java that goes beyond the simple sandbox model that currently has applets running inside and outside. There will no longer be an "inside" or "outside" distinction, but Java will allow fine-grain access control controlled by the browser.

Netscape announced that the new version of the browser will prompt security violations, etc., with "human readable" messages with a risk level (low, medium, high) depending on the requested operation. For example, an untrusted applet trying to access the "/etc/passwd" file on a UNIX machine would be a high risk operation. Netscape will allow fine-grain access, following Sun's example, and avoid the binary-trust (all or nothing) model.

History of the Web

The last day of the conference sponsored a day of enlightening sessions featuring Web inventors with the World Wide Web History Project. See http://www.webhistory.org/home.html for details.

Closing Plenary

On the lighter side of the conference, Bob Metcalfe, vice president of technology for the International Data Group, settled a bet regarding remarks he made two conferences ago at WWW4 where he promised he would "eat his words" from a December 1995 InfoWorld column if the Internet did not collapse in 1996. He tried bringing out a large cake with the column imprinted on top, but that did not satisfy the audience, so he placed a paper copy of the article in the blender and ate it!

Other Announcements

Java for Windows 3.1 and 3.11 is fully supported in the new Netscape Communicator. See http://search.netscape.com/comprod/products/communicator/.

The next conference, WWW7, will be held in Brisbane, Australia, on April 14-18, 1998.

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Miranda Beall, beall@nssdca.gsfc.nasa.gov, (301) 286-0162
Hughes STX, Code 633, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771, U.S.A.

Erin D. Gardner, gardner@nssdca.gsfc.nasa.gov, (301) 286-0163
Hughes STX, Code 633, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771, U.S.A.



NASA home page GSFC home page GSFC organizational page

Author:Miranda Beall
Curators: Erin Gardner and Miranda Beall
Responsible Official: Dr. Joseph H. King, Code 633
Last Revised: 26 JUNE 1997 [EDG]