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W3C Hashes Out New Interoperability Standard

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an organization dedicated to setting interoperability standards for the Web, Tuesday proposed a method for separating XHTML 1.0 into modules, which would provide greater flexibility for developers of Web-enabled products and services.

This "modules modularization," as the organization calls it, gives product and specification developers building blocks for creating content and standards for specifying which blocks are used. This is especially targeted for the proliferation of devices used to access the Web, including personal digital assistants, interactive television devices and Web appliances.

What modularization does is give the developers control over designs by providing the means for subsetting and extending XHTML, including lists, forms, tables and images, which make it suitable for use on many Web devices.

An XML language, Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) is a hybrid between HTML and XML designed for Net device displays. Like Sun Microsystem Inc.'s seminal Java family of products, the point of the WC3's recommendation is to open up interoperability among components and platforms.

"Modularization of XHTML gives content developers the ability to choose modules, either alone or in combination with others, which are all components of the XHTML family, ensuring interoperability," explained Steven Pemberton, chair of the HTML Working Group. "By using standardized modules in clearly specified ways, we are able to use automated tools to transform content to suit various devices, so content developers can focus on what they do best."

Pemberton & Co. decided on the recommendation with the idea that many companies have chosen to integrate the XHTML language into their products and services. The W3C's proposal also stemmed from the idea that XHTML Basic, the infancy stage of Modularization, is already endorsed by the mobile telecommunications industry.

To be sure, it has a staunch supporter in mobile telecommunications firm Ericsson.

"Modularization of XHTML provides a standard way of customizing markup languages based on XHTML," said Martin Jönsson, strategic product manager, Ericsson. "It makes them more suitable for different types of Web clients such as mobile phones, and lets us include the best features from different markup languages in XHTML. We are planning using modularization of XHTML to extend XHTML Basic with WML markup, to combine the best of the new Web and the best of WAP."

Other endorsers of the modularization proposal include Applied Testing and Technology, CWI, IBM, Intel, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (Panasonic), Microsoft, Mozquito Technologies, Netscape/AOL, Openwave Systems, Opera Software, Philips Electronics, Quark Inc., Sun Microsystems and WebGeek, Inc.

Although it is called a recommendation, it is actually a standard, having fulfilled requirements by the W3C: a W3C recommendation indicates that a specification is stable, contributes to Web interoperability, and has been reviewed by the W3C Membership, who are in favor of supporting its adoption by academic, industry and research communities.

This is the third Recommendation the W3C HTML Working Group has produced in the past 15 months, building from XHTML 1.0 in January 2000, and XHTML Basic in December 2000.