[whatwg] File package protocol and manifest support?

Brett Zamir brettz9 at yahoo.com
Mon May 18 03:41:54 PDT 2009

While this may be too far in the game to bring up, I'd very much be 
interested (and think others would be too) to have a standard means of 
representing not only individual files, but also groups of files on the web.

One application of this would be for a web user to be able to do the 
following (taking advantage of both offline applications and related 
somewhat to custom protocols):

1) Click a link in a particular protocol containing a list of files or 
leading to a manifest file which contains a list of files. Very 
importantly, the files would NOT need to be from the same site.
2) If the files have not been downloaded already, the browser accesses 
the files (possibly first decompressing them) to store for offline use.
3) If the files were XML/XHTML, take advantage of any attached XSL, 
XQuery, or CSS in reassembling them.
4) If the files were SQL, reassemble them in a table-agnostic 
manner--e.g., allow the user to choose which columns to view and in 
which order and how many records at a time (including allowing a 
single-record "flashcard"-like view), also allowing for automated 
generation of certain columns using JavaScript.
5) If the files included templates, use these for the display and 
populate for the user to view.
6) Bring the user to a particular view of the pages, starting for 
example, at a particular paragraph indicated by the link or manifest 
file, highlight the document or a portion of the targeted page with a 
certain font and color, etc.

It seems limiting that while we can reference individual sites' data at 
best targeting an existing anchor or predefined customizability, we do 
not have any built-in way to bookmark and share views of that data over 
the web.

In considering building a Firefox extension to try this as a proof of 
concept, METS (http://www.loc.gov/standards/mets/ ) seems to have many 
aspects which could be useful as a base in such a standard, including 
the useful potential of enabling links to be described for files which 
may not exist as hyperlinks within the files--i.e., XLink linkbases).

Besides this offline packages use, such a language might work just as 
well to build a standard for hierarchical sitemaps, linkbases, or Gopher 
2.0 (and not being limited to its usual web view, equivalent of "icon 
view" on the desktop, but conceivably allowing "column browser" or tree 
views for hierarchical data ranging from interlinked genealogies to 
directories along the lines of http://www.dmoz.org/ or 
http://dir.yahoo.com ), including for representing files on one's own 
local system yet leading to other sites. The same manifest files might 
be browseable directly (e.g., Gopher-mode), being targeted to 
continguously lead to other such manifest file views until reaching a 
document (the Gopher-view could optionally remain in sight as the end 
document loaded), or, as mentioned above, as a cached and integrated 
offline application (especially where compressed files and SQL were 


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