As originally proposed at ACH-ALLC in Washington earlier this year, Peter Flynn of the Curia Project at the University of Cork organized a two day meeting with a general view of creating dialogue between the TEI and the developers of World Wide Web, one of the most rapidly growing computer systems since the Internet itself. WWW is a distributed hypertext system running at some improbably large number of sites worldwide, which uses a very simple SGML tagset called HTML (it has been rather unkindly characterized as "Pidgin-SGML"). WWW itself consists of a markup language (HTML), a set of Internet protocols (FTP, HTTP etc) and a naming scheme for objects or resources (the "Universal Resource Locator" or URL). A number of browsers are now available which use these components. Mosaic, developed at NCSA, is probably the most impressive: running on Mac, X and Windows it offers a fully graphical interface with just about everything current technology can support. Lynx, developed at the Computer Science dept at U of Kansas, is at the opposite extreme, assuming only a VT100 (there is also a WWW-mode for EMACS!). I will not attempt here to describe WWW in operation. Web browsers are freely available by anonymous FTP all over the place: if you haven't tried it out already, and can't see what all the fuss is about, then you should stop reading now, get yourself a browser and do so forthwith.
The two day meeting was attended by Chris Wilson (NCSA); Lou Montulli (Lynx, U Kansas); Bill Perry (EMACS, Indiana University); Dave Ragget (Hewlett-Packard; HTML+) and myself for TEI. Various representatives of the Curia project, notably Patricia Kelly from the Royal Irish Academy, were also present. I gave a short presentation about the TEI, focussing mostly on contextual issues but also including some detailed technical stuff about bases and toppings and X-pointer syntax, which seemed to be well received. Dave Ragget then talked us through the current HTML+ draft which started off a very wide ranging discussion. This continued during the second day of the meeting, but was at least partially nailed down in the shape of a brief report (see below) which should be somewhere in the Web by the time you read this one.
To their credit, most WWW people seem painfully aware of the limitations of the current HTML specification, which was very much an experimental dtd hacked together in haste and ignorance of the finer points of SGML. (or indeed the blunter ones). HTML+, which Dave Raggett has been working on for the last year or so, attempts to improve on it without sacrificing too much of its flexibility. This draft will eventually progress to Internet RFC status; there is also talk of an IETF working group co-chaired by Ragget and Tim Berners-Lee (of CERN; onlie begettor of the Web) to steer this process through.
The Cork meeting was an interesting opportunity for the developers of three of the major Web browsers to meet face to face and argue over some of the design decisions implicit in the HTML+ spec. To some extent this did happen, though the discussion was rather anarchic and unstructured. It was also a good opportunity for the TEI to encourage development of HTML+ in a TEI convergent manner, and this I think was achieved. Several of the changes accepted, at least in principle, will make it much easier to transform TEI documents into HTML, if not vice versa. Some practical issues about how WWW should handle TEI conformant documents were also resolved.
Outside the meeting, this was also a good opportunity to find out more about the Curia project itself. My hasty assessment is that this project has still some way to go. There is a clear awareness of the many different ways in which it could develop, and a tremendous enthusiasm. I think the project would benefit from some detailed TEI consultancy before too much more P1-conformant material is created. It also offers interesting contrastive opportunities with other corpus-building activities, chiefly because of its enormous diachronic spread, and its polyglot nature.
Lou Burnard, Cork, 21 Nov 93
========= Concluding statement of the WWW/TEI Meeting follows ==========
<!-- This uses the HTML dtd --> <title>WWW/TEI Meeting</title> <h1>Notes from WWW/TEI Meeting</h1> <h3>Action Items/Recommendations</h3> <list> <li>HTML 1.0 should be documented to define the behavior of existing browsers, and should be frozen as agreed upon at the WWW Developers' Conference. <list> <li>Features to be documented, implemented and specified include collapsing spaces, underline, alt attribute, BR, HR, ISMAP... <li>HTML IETF spec needs to be updated by CERN, as well as existing documentation </list> <li>HTML+ future browsers need not support HTML 1.0 features after a reasonable amount of time. As an aid in transition, the HTML+ spec/DTD will not include any deprecated features of HTML 1.0. <list> <li>HTML 1.0 deprecated features <list> <li>nextid <li>method, rel, rev, effect from <A> tag (but not from the <LINK> tag) <li>blockquote --> quote <li>There was a feeling that the <img> tag will be superceded by the <fig> tag, although its deprecation was not agreed upon. <li>menu list --> ul <li>dir list--> ul </list> </list> <li>The intention of HTML+ is to support generic SGML-compliant authoring tools, and authors are recommended to use this software with the HTML+ DTD for the creation/maintenance of documents. <li>Browsers may implement different levels of HTML+ conformance. <list> <li>Level 0 implementation <list> <li>HTML 1.0 spec referenced above </list> <li>Level 1 implementation <list> <li>Partial fill-out forms <li>New entity definitions (in section 5.1 of HTML+ draft) </list> <li>Level 2 implementation <list> <li>Additional presentation tags (sub, sup, strike) & logical emphasis <li>Full forms support (incl. type checking) <li>Generic emphasis tag </list> <li>Level 3 implementation <list> <li>Figures <li>NOTEs and admonishments </list> <li>Further levels to be specified </list> <li>Authoring tools are expected to conform to the HTML+ DTD and are <b>NOT</b> to support deprecated features. <li>We expect the HTML+ DTD to be developed incrementally. The HTML+ internet draft will make clear which features are now stable and which are still subject to change. The DTD will be structured to reflect this. <ol> <li>HTML+ will work with the SGML reference concrete syntax. <li>The entity sets will be user-specifiable (in the long run). <li>HTML+ will support nested divisions or containers. <li>There will be a number of new features <dl> <dt><b>Figures & Images</b> <dd><fig> may be able to subsume the role of <img>. <dt><b>Generic highlighting tag</b> <dd>The <em> tag will be used with a set of three or four defined attributes to present a guaranteed-distinct presentation of these attributes. <dt><b>Generic roles</b> <dt><b>Support for undefined elements</b> (user extensions) (render) <dd> <dt><b>Tables</b> <dd>This is now stable. <dt>Math</b> <dd>for research </dl> </ol> <li>HTML/TEI <list> <li>It was felt the correct way to convert between TEI and HTML was to do it on the server side using a conversion filter. <li>This server will also provide a hypertext link to download the raw TEI text. <li>We (WWW developers and TEI people) will strive together to converge functionality between HTML* and TEI, as well as to produce this server/filter system. </list> <li>Links to: <list> <li>HTML spec <li>HTML+ spec <li><ref target="http://curia.ucc.ie/curia/doc/tei.html">TEI overview</a> </list> </list>