[whatwg] WebForms vs XForms

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Mon Jan 10 07:02:13 PST 2005

On Tue, 4 Jan 2005, Jon Ferraiolo wrote:
> I looked at the WebForms 2.0 spec and was surprised at its size. I 
> created a PDF out of the WebForms spec and got 101 pages. In comparison, 
> I created a PDF out of the XForms 1.0 spec and got 127 pages. Given that 
> WebForms is still under development and XForms is approved, one would 
> expect some further growth, making the size of the two specs about the 
> same.

Web Forms 2 normatively references one appendix from XForms, too, so it's 
longer than it looks! ;-) It is also merely an extension of HTML4, so the 
whole of HTML4 (and DOM2 HTML) should be included in the calculation as 
well. Although I suppose then one might then argue that XPath and XML 
Schema should be included in the count for XForms.

Web Forms 2.0 is mostly stable now. I wouldn't expect much change in size 
in future.

> When I did a quick survey of features, I see major overlap. My 
> conclusion is that WebForms to a large extent is simply just a 
> competitive format with XForms.

There certainly is some level in which Web Forms 2 competes with XForms, 
yes. However, they are also quite different in important ways -- WF2 is 
focused on backwards compatibility, while XForms is focused on expressing 
constraints declaratively. Naturally, this has led to very different 
specifications, with different (if overlapping) feature sets.

> If you are going to add 100+ pages of incremental features to the 
> browser world, of which a major portion has already been defined by the 
> W3C, why not build from XForms, which is an approved standard (and which 
> is going into Mozilla), versus building something similar but different?

XForms lacks backwards compatibility with existing content. That's the 
only reason.

> Perhaps Web Forms started out with the goal of doing something small as 
> minor increments to existing HTML, but now it seems to have grown into a 
> rather large beast of its own. Also, perhaps Web Forms started when 
> XForms had little traction and therefore could be discounted, but in 
> 2004 interest in XForms has picked up quite a bit.

I agree.

Hopefully XForms will indeed be successful. If anything, maybe Web Forms 2 
can help with the migration (as described in WF2, section 1.5 [1]). Web 
Forms 2 merely addresses the demand from authors to improve HTML as a 
stopgap measure while WinIE6 is still so prevalent that authors feel they 
must write content that works in default installs of that browser.

[1] http://whatwg.org/specs/web-forms/current-work/#r-to-xforms

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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