August 11, 2009

Balisage 2009 - XML in the Browser: The Next Decade

Alex Milowski (Appolux) reminded us of the earliest demo on XML in a browser -- Netscape’s 1999 XML book demo from XTech ’99 in which you could sort by author, title, or ISBN using a combination of XML, HTML, CSS and JavaScript. At that time, Netscape also had an IRS demo with a table of contents in a sidebar controlling which page is presented (a la JavaDocs). While this might seem like old hat to us in 2009, Milowski ran the demos in recent browsers. The book demo worked in Firefox 3.x, Safari, Android, and iPhone, but failed in Internet Explorer 6, 7, and even 8. The IRs demo was less successful across the board with the exception of Firefox.

He defined Intrinsic Vocabulary as any markup that a browser can natively process with some well-defined non-trivial semantic without the aid of additional constructs. HTML is an example, but XML is not. He is particularly interested in intrinsic support for HTML5, SVG, and MathML, so he created a Firefox extension called XML Application Launcher. After you install the add-on, you can view Alex’s Balisage paper directly as XML in the browser using the Balisage DocBook subset rendered with a popup table of contents with load-on-demand pages. I tried it tonight and it works just fine! on the Google code page, he wrote:
The main idea of this extension is that you can write your own applications, distribute them, and use this tool to launch them based on media type, XML namespace, content matching, or some combination of those three. Eventually the extension will have access to a registry of applications for XML vocabularies so that when an unknown type is encountered it can query for supporting applications.
Milowski concluded his talk with these points:
  • We must have HTML5, SVG, and MathML.
  • Embrace the idea of intrinsic vocabularies.
  • Replicate the browser extension model.
  • Support open-source and make it easy to use.
  • Don’t wait for someone else to implement it.
See the Submitted Paper.

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