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IBM and Novell Join Mozilla for XForms

The Mozilla Foundation, Novell and IBM announced today the formation of a project to implement the W3C's XForms 1.0 recommendation, which is part of the consortium's XHTML2 specification.

XForms 1.0 is intended to allow for the separation of presentation from XML-driven results. It also allows for increased accessibility that will bring Web transactions in line with U.S Federal government accessibility guidelines.

"XForms is about a new model for forms that really goes beyond anything that the Web is doing right now and makes them more usable for real form-based applications," Ron Bassett, manager of IBM's Browser Technology Center, told internetnews.com.

According to Bassett, most users think of forms in terms of simple transactions, such as ordering a book online. But forms carry different meanings depending on the industry, such as insurance and banking, and therefore have different requirements.

"XForms is about leveraging Internet technology to fill in more complicated [forms] and types of forms that are more corporate related versus more Web-based forms transactions," Basset explained. "Some corporations believe XForms will become the backbone of their business for doing forms transaction. XForms is really a standard that allows those corporations to better manage form input technology within their company as well as on various devices."

Novell is already using XForms in the new version of its exteNd web services platform, which it will use in this new initiative.

"We will provide developer resources and our member of the W3C XForms WG (who also has extensive XForms implementation experience) will participate in architecture planning," Novell spokesperson Rod Anderson told internetnews.com. "In particular, Novell will provide the so-called Master Dependency Graph, which is at the core of XForms processing."

IBM will be contributing development resources in terms of actual programmers to the project.

"We're also kind of facilitating the community aspect of things," said Bassett. "Our goal really is that this is something that's done in the open source community. This isn't about IBM doing work and Novell doing work and then at some future point contributing it back to Mozilla. We're working to make sure that anyone that wants to work on this can work with us to get it done."

The XForms initiative is not the only forms initiative under way at Mozilla. At the end of May, Opera and Mozilla announced another initiative called Web Forms 2.0. It is essentially an extension of the way forms are defined in the existing HTML 4.01 forms chapter. IBM's Bassett for one doesn't believe that Web Forms and XForms compete in any way and that they are in some ways complementary efforts. The lead author of the Web Forms 2.0 initiative, Ian Hickson of Opera software, agrees.

"I'm sure many people will think that Mozilla implementing XForms will be in direct competition to Mozilla implementing the Web Forms extensions, especially since the two are often positioned as providing the same solution," Hickson told internetnews.com. "However, the two really have different target audiences. XForms is targeted at the professional form market -- it is a comprehensive data binding technology with a very modular approach, separating the presentation, the interface description, the data model, and the constraints from each other.

"Web Forms, on the other hand, is targeted at your average HTML author -- people who just want to write their forms and not have to worry about multiple levels of abstraction beyond the simple structure/presentation split."

Mozilla and Opera aren't the only two groups supporting Web Forms either, according to Hickson. At the recent World Wide Developer's Conference, Apple briefly mentioned that they actually had added support for a few Web Forms 2.0 features to their Safari browser.