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RealTime IT News

Standards Bodies to Give the Web Legs

In a move to get more users to access the Web via mobile devices, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) have inked an agreement to collaborate on specifications.

The two standards bodies Thursday said they share information to guard against creating dueling standards for making it easier for users to access the Internet via Web-enabled phones, cameras or personal digital assistants.

The W3C and OMA, which develops standards for mobile data services, will share technical information and specs to help provide solid, workable standards that benefit developers, product and service providers and users. The groups will hold meetings together to discuss each other's progress, but W3C officials said no timetable has been set for the meetings.

Max Froumentin, spokesman for the W3C's Multimodal and Voice Working Group, whose group writes specs to adapt Web content on mobile gadgets, said the move is an attempt to avoid doing the same work twice -- and differently.

"Now that we have devices that access the Web, there is a potential overlap between standards bodies," Froumentin told internetnews.com.

For example, Froumentin's group works on multimodal communications that allow speech recognition, keyboard, touch screen and a stylus to be used in the same session. This would alleviate the clumsiness of using a keyboard on a mobile smartphone. OMA could conceivably craft service standards that repeat the work of the multimodal group, causing redundancies.

The W3C/OMA pact comes at a time when the demand for mobile applications based on platforms such as Microsoft's .NET or Java is growing despite the relative immaturity of technologies and the lack of standards to facilitate them. W3C and OMA hope to change that by collaborating on common specs that may evolve into standards.

Philipp Hoschka, Interaction Domain Leader at the W3C, said another reason for the pact is a significant uptake in the interest of the W3C's mobile Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL).

"These are very much driven by the needs of the mobile community," Hoschka told internetnews.com, noting that SVG and SMIL are the basis for Multimedia Messaging Service, a descendant of Short Messaging Service, which the OMA is working on. Hoschka said MMS will allow users to send applications that support slide shows, audio and video from mobile devices.

In other standards news, the Securities and Exchange Commission said it is seeking public comment on alternative methods and the costs and benefits associated with data tagged by Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), an open specificatio n for software that uses XML data tags to describe financial information for businesses.

The SEC said in a statement it will consider an SEC staff proposal to accept voluntary supplemental filings of financial data using XBRL, which would help the agency get a gauge on the types of data tagging currently available in the market.

The agency may propose a rule this fall that would establish the voluntary XBRL-tagged filing program beginning with the 2004 calendar year-end reporting season.

Industry experts love the possibilities of XBRL, which is heartily supported by software giant Microsoft, which produces its financial statements in XBRL.