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The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has released a standard that will make it easier for Web pages to be viewed on a variety of devices.

The Internet standards organisation said it was recommending its XForms 1.0 specification as an upgrade from HTML forms. Ten years after their introduction, HTML forms can no longer cope with the array of devices such as mobile phones and PDAs that are being used to access the Web. As such, said W3C, XForms presents a more flexible option.

According to the consortium, this is because XForms allows form authors to choose from the mark-up language of their choice. Being able to pick from XHTML, SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), and XML, will make it easier for implementers to deliver functionality to users and devices that previously has not been possible, said W3C.

"Practically speaking, XForms technologies make it possible to use forms from a PDA, mobile phone, screen reader or conventional desk-top device without loss of functionality for the end-user," remarked Steven Pemberton, co-chair of W3C XForms working group.

W3C went on to say that splitting the traditional HTML forms into the three-part XForms model meant that XForms modules can be re-used independent of the information they collect, user interface controls can easily be re-presented on different devices with different capabilities, and the separation of presentation from content leaves information more readily available for users of assistive technologies.

The new standard will be based on XML, which allows information to be moved between different devices and is rapidly replacing HTML for the building of Net-based platforms. Doing this, said W3C, will make it easier for developers to fed form data into databases and other applications.

Although Sean McGrath, chief technology officer of Irish XML company Propylon, said the specification was long overdue and would make it easier for Web pages to be displayed on different devices, he cautioned that the lack of Microsoft backing for XForms may restrict its wide-spread adoption.

"XForms will need to be bundled directly into the browser if it is to be well supported, but the problem is that Microsoft has developed its own specification, XDocs. Without Microsoft on-board, it will be it difficult for XForms," commented McGrath.

However, Dr Bob Sutor, director of Web services strategy in IBM and one of the editors of the new specification, said that XForms has a great chance of becoming the standard, open, non-proprietary technology that will help people access information on-line on any device. "This is is an important step toward establishing a true electronic forms standard which will be critical for cross-industry interoperability," said Sutor in a statement.

The W3C XForms working group includes the likes of Adobe, AOL/Netscape, Computer Associates, IBM and Xerox. The W3C is an international industry consortium that develops interoperable technologies with the aim of improving the Web.

© ENN

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