Writing for the Web: A Primer for Librarians

by Eric H. Schnell

Future Considerations

There are still many exciting technical advances which are changing the structure of the Web. Newer developments such as Dynamic Documents, Java, and PDF are already beginning to impact the manner in which Web resources are created. The integration of multimedia materials is also changing the format which information is transmitted, moving from a text-based to a visually-based medium. There are many other changes occurring which may impact the creation of Web documents.

Dynamic content is changing the Web from being a passive medium to a more interactive one. Dynamic HTML (DHTML) enables control over content presentation and behavior, regardless of browser, or operating environment. This includes static properties that control the presentation, both visual and verbal, of an element as well as more dynamic properties that can be used to alter the appearance, position, behavior, or display of an element after the contents are fully loaded.

The Document Object Model (DOM) is a simple, hierarchical naming system that makes all of the objects in a Web page, such as images, accessible to scripting languages like JavaScript. In DOM, there is an "object" that represents the page. All of the objects contained within the page, like images, "branch off" of this document object. The whole point of the DOM is to mirror the markup on the page that allows programs and scripts to access and update the content, structure, and style of documents in a standard way.

In April 1997, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) proposed a new Web specification called the Extensible Markup Language (XML). XML is designed as a compromise between the simplicity of HTML and the flexibility of SGML. It is also being referred to as generic SGML. The primary advantage of XML is it allows Web authors to create their own markup tags. These tags can be as simple or as complex as the author requires. For example, data can be marked with a tag such as <online catalog>, so they're easier to identify. Finally, XML includes features such as bidirectional and location-independent links and transclusion, where a linked document appears a part of the current one.

Other developments which will affect the future applications of the Web includes the development of a programming language called the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML). VRML allows remote users can interact with a Web site using an interactive interface. While still considered experimental, libraries could soon provide users with a 3-D version of their Web space using VRML which look just like their physical library facilities. What will be more likely is that libraries will be providing access to 3-D models of anatomic parts. The practicality of such services, and the ability for libraries to develop such resources will depend solely on having the technical expertise.

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Page Updated: Wednesday, 09-Dec-98