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Several new technologies converging around the Web will transform it from an unrefined display medium into a sophisticated environment than can enable one-to-one publishing.
"Until now, there hasn't been something analogous to what you have in print publishing -- call it an editorial system for Web publishing -- that is designed for collaboration by many authors, keeps content and format separate, and provides for publishing editions" with customized content, said Mark Walter, editor of the Seybold Report on Internet Publishing, in Media, Pa.
That's about to change. At the Seybold Publishing 97 conference in San Francisco this week, new products will feature collaborative-authoring capabilities and Java client enhancements that improve document display.
Perhaps most significant will be products supporting the Extensible Markup Language (XML), which enables developers to create meta-data tags needed to display custom views and create custom publications.
"You want to have the data structure separate from the presentation of the data and have a standard way of redesigning the look and feel of a catalog," said Claude von Roesgen, Webmaster at Millipore, in Bedford, Mass. "That's where XML would come in."
Meanwhile, like any high-stake emerging technology, Web publishing involves plenty of politics.
Microsoft, for instance, is in the tricky position of promoting XML without ticking off the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) community, which controls standards committees and believes XML is limited, according to sources.
"We were going to talk a lot about XML [at Seybold], but we're broadening our scope," a company source said.
Nevertheless, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates still plans to discuss XML in his keynote speech, and Microsoft will have an XML section in its booth.
Separately, Microsoft is developing standards within XML for updating and synchronization and for an XML query language, said Adam Bosworth, general manager, Internet Future Technologies at Microsoft.
The company, which sees XML as a way to limit Java's role, plans to create a separate product for XML editing, initially a low-end product such as a Wordpad, which would then grow into a much larger product, Bosworth said.
Also seeking to improve Web display, Netscape will unveil Dynamic Font plug-ins for its Composer HTML-editing tool. Part of the Composer Web client bundle, it will let Web publishers control font display on the Navigator 4.0 browser.
Meanwhile, ArborText will unveil Adept 7, an upgrade of its SGML system for creating complex documents. Adept 7, due in November and priced at $1,350 per seat, will export to XML format and also include Willow, a technology linking document-management systems, JavaBeans support, and document maps with multiple views, said P.G. Bartlett, ArborText's vice president of marketing.
Also, DataChannel will demonstrate Channel Manager 1.0, which will ship Oct. 7 and is priced from $200 per seat. ChannelManager is Webcasting software that supports the Channel Definition Format and includes an XML viewer. It lets IS managers and content providers distribute data from Web channels, newsfeeds, PC applications, and corporate data to customizable employee and customer desktops.
Another factor in the emergence of custom Web publishing is group authoring. At Seybold, FutureTense will join a list of vendors that have developed collaborative-authoring capabilities for their Web-authoring tools. Future Internet Publishing System 2.0. separates content from formatting and includes revision tracking and access control. The company is targeting a November ship date, and the client-side-only product will cost $3,995 per license.
On the client side, many publishers are looking to Java as a Web interface. But Java is lacking in several regards, including the ability to let developers control font display.
To solve that problem, Bitstream plans to unveil a technology called Java-based Extendible Type (JET). JET is a 100-percent Java font engine that lets Java developers control font display and supports double-byte languages such as Chinese. Bitstream expects to license JET to Sun shortly, said a company source.
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