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W3C Advances XForms 1.0

Nearly 10 years after the introduction of HTML forms revolutionized transactions on the Internet, a new specification is set to reshape the nature of Web-based forms.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Tuesday released XForms 1.0 as a Candidate Recommendation, signifying the specification is stable and ready for implementation as a standard.

XForms is seen as the foundation for next-generation Web-based forms, using XML to make it possible to write forms in a number of markup languages and deliver them to diverse devices, from PDAs to cell phones and screen readers, without having to rewrite the forms. The specification achieves this by giving authors the ability to distinguish the descriptions of the purpose of the form from the presentation of the form and how the results are written in XML.

"W3C's XForms allow authors to use their choice of markup language -- XHTML, SVG, XML -- with minimal scripting and maximum usability," said Steven Pemberton, co-chair of the W3C XForms Working Group. "The XForms Working Group has provided a model that makes it easy for implementers to develop and reuse form components, delivering functionality to users and devices previously not possible."

Dr. Bob Sutor, director of IBM's Web Services Strategy, added, "Why has the Web succeeded? It's been successful because people knew that the underlying technology was standardized in an open way. HTML was an important tool in connecting people to the information they needed and we learned important lessons about avoiding company-specific extensions. Now XForms extends the power of XML to further enhance how companies and individuals do business on the Web. XForms has a great opportunity to be the standard, open, non-proprietary technology that will help people access information online on any device--and do everything from shopping and banking to checking their e-mail or calendar."

Making XML the core of XForms brings a number of advantages to the new specification, according to the W3C. For instance, data received from an XForm is already strongly typed, well-formed, easy to validate and process, speeding up form filling by reducing the need for round trips to the server for validation. It also allows XForms to reuse and update XML Schemas, allowing a form to remain useful and functional even when the Schema changes. Also, using XML 1.0 for the instance data (description of the results) means that the data can be easily internationalized.

Additionally, the W3C said that by defining XML-based declarative event handlers that cover common use cases, the majority of XForms documents can be statically analyzed, reducing the need for imperative scripts for event handlers.