Weblogs /Newsreader as web app workflow example (was RE:[whatwg] Web Forms 2.0 - what does it extend , definition of same, relation to XForms, implementation reqs.)

Bill McCoy bmccoy at adobe.com
Sun Jan 9 10:18:29 PST 2005

Sure, let's take the blogosphere as a canonical example of what we're all
trying to achieve.

Viewing an individual is largely in the "published HTML document" model, I
agree. But we don't need "WebForms 2.0" for that.

So lets take richer blogosphere solutions. Clearly XML (RSS/Atom) is
proliferating as the baseline of client-server communication for viewing
news feeds. Today the desktop news reader applications of choice are native
client applications (e.g. NewNewsWire, AmphetaDesk). Sure, web app solutions
exist (e.g. Bloglines) but they are clunky and don't provide the desired
benefits of offline browsing and rich user experience for managing your
posts, and they weren't easy to create either. And they in general have the
same usability relationship to native news readers as web mail client apps
to associated native clients. Exchange and IMAP servers have webmail but no
one wants to use it if they can use a native Outlook, Eudora, etc.

And HTML forms as-is is clearly "good enough" for a basic front-end to a
PHP+MySQL, Perl or Struts-type weblog system, as demonstrated by the
hundreds of such systems in existence. Native clients are also becoming
popular for post authoring/editing too. But this is more the limitations of
single-page-at-a-time and online-only HTML (limitations not addressed by
"Web Forms 2.0").

With XML technologies like XForms and SVG, one could imagine building a
client for news reading (even for editing/managing/HTML-publishing) that
would be portable across a set of adopting user agents but provide the
visual richness and offline usability of a native client app. And the
complexity level of devloping such a declarative solution could be much
lower than a PHP+MySQL weblog system, much less developing a native app like
AmphetaDesk and porting to every platform. The only steps towards this today
is Flash-based solutions which are proprietary and built on a "stage and
timeline" architecture not really suitable for apps. And, again, XAML is

The main things lacking to make a "AmphetaDesk as web app" easy: a strong
XML data-model architecture with capable binding to presentation and
granular instantiation from HTTP sources and web services, avoiding the
page-at-a-time and online-only bottelnecks of HTML. Huh, sounds like XForms.

So again I hear WHATWG folks advocating pouring in a bunch of "Web Forms
2.0" extensions to the "Street HTML Swamp", which won't fundamentally
advance the HTML solution for individually-published weblogs, while arguing
against doing things in the user agents they control that could enable
standards-based cross-platform Amphetadesk-level news reader clients to
directly consume XML feeds. 

--Bill McCoy
Adobe Systems Incorporated
bmccoy at adobe.com 

-----Original Message-----
From: J. Graham [mailto:jg307 at hermes.cam.ac.uk] 
Sent: Sunday, January 09, 2005 9:30 AM
To: Bill McCoy
Cc: 'James Graham'; 'Henri Sivonen'; whatwg at whatwg.org
Subject: RE: [whatwg] Web Forms 2.0 - what does it extend , definition of
same,relation to XForms, implementation reqs.

... Lots of Web Apps are pretty dissimmilar to existing desktop apps.
Weblogs, for example, are much more like a document with a little
application than a typical VB app. In this case I'd argue that the HTML
solution is superior in usability to something that would be produced with a
typical toolkit. In this, and many other cases, there's really no need for
all the additional sophistication (and complexity) of "XML-Soup" solutions.

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