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The Metaphorical Web: Form and XForm

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  • Kurt Cagle
    **************************** Kurt Cagle s Metaphorical Web **************************** Monday, November 18, 2002 http://www.kurtcagle.net kurt@kurtcagle.net
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 18, 2002
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      Kurt Cagle's
      Metaphorical Web
      Monday, November 18, 2002

      Settling In
      Contrary to appearances, the Metaphorical Web has NOT disappeared
      into the void. The last few weeks, however, have been involved in
      getting up to speed on an onsite consulting job, finding (and moving
      into) a new house, and getting my eldest daughter back into school.
      Not surprisingly, the amount of time I've had to devote to this has
      been non-existent, though that looks to be changing (finally). I'll
      be moving Metaphorical Web to a weekly schedule to better accomodate
      my current workload.

      I've also been pretty heavily in the code trenches, and so am holding
      off doing a code segment this time around. I have some intriguing
      ideas I want to play with in the realm of XForms, however, which is,
      not coincidentally, the focus of today's column:

      Form and XForm
      Today was something of a banner day for the W3C. The 15th of
      February, April, July, and November are usually reserved for the
      release of milestone changes to various standards - and it is not
      uncommon for a working draft to go into a Candidate Recommendation
      (CR) status or a CR to become a formal Recommendation on these dates.
      This time around, there were several significant new additions,
      notable as they inch forward into becoming what will become (despite
      the best intentions of larger software vendors) the formal operating
      system for the Internet.

      XForms has become a Candidate Recommendation. I have a certain
      perverse fascination with XForms ... it is the one standard that
      almost nobody wants to see become standard, because it will
      effectively lay the foundation for replacing all of those $100,000 e-
      commerce packages that seem only to make things even more complex and
      entangled than they were before companies adopted these packages.

      XForms does precisely what you would expect it to do - it is a way of
      describing the semantic model of a web form (or, perhaps as
      importantly, a collection of forms). In essence, with a web form,
      you would specify that you are interested in collecting information
      of a specific type (perhaps with four possible options for one
      element, numeric content for a second element, a phone number for a
      third element and so forth) without describing the specific view used
      to request such information. The significance to this is that the
      same XForm could be used by four different types of systems, from the
      low-bandwidth realm of a cell phone's visual display to a rich SVG
      environment rendered on an expensive graphics workstation to a voice

      This principle is part of the underlying concept of
      Model/View/Controller architectures that seem to be increasingly the
      cornerstone upon which most XML applications are being built. By
      abstracting the model from both view and controller, you create
      incredibly flexible applications that can be controlled either
      remotely or locally with no apparent distinction, which is central to
      building true distribute applications. The controller can be built
      into the XForms viewer, such that if you had a "wizard"-like
      application, you could in essence model it with XForms and describe
      all of the possible states that the application could be in (an
      example of what is known in computer parlance as a finite-state

      I have a feeling that XForms will end up being a disruptive
      technology that will significantly change the landscape of computing.
      The reason for this is simple: XForms is pretty simple compared to
      the looming stateful architectures that seem to be on the minds of
      most large-scale software vendors, requires no significant changes in
      the way things are being done and has no dependency on a given
      operating system or programming platform. Moreover, XForms lend
      themselves to a RESTful architectural design, which similarly seems
      to be emerging from the real world problems that most developers are
      finding with web services.

      For more information on XForms, check out the most recent
      specification at http://www.w3.org/TR/xforms/ or the W3C XForms page
      at http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/Forms/. I'll be covering XForms in
      greater detail in subsequent issues of the Metaphorical Web.

      Copyright 2002 Cagle Communications
      All Rights Reserved
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