The Next HTML
On the Web site of the not-too-distant future, text will sweep across the screen, images and text will overlap in montages of pictures and words, forms will be friendlier, and templates will clone sets of pages that share common design elements. These are the key features of the next version of HTML-code-named Cougar-now under consideration by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Boston-based standards body that defines HTML specifications.
W3C is counting on the ability of the new version 4 browsers from Netscape and Microsoft to display these advanced HTML features. Site designers are experimenting already with the new features, but it's anybody's guess as to when the W3C will put its stamp of approval on Cougar. The collaborative standards process is slow by nature; HTML 3.2, approved last January, finally codified the rules for features, such as tables and Java applets, that had been widely used for nearly a year.
Here are some highlights from working drafts of the next HTML. (For more details, see the official documents at the W3C's Web sites, at http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/TR/ and http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/MarkUp/Cougar.)
Objects create a general tag to identify multimedia and code elements, such as images, applets, other HTML pages or plug-ins inserted into a document.
Client-side scripting defines language-neutral extensions that embed scripts into documents. Scripts can manipulate objects-for example, move text across the screen or animate GIFs-and respond to user interaction.
Richer interactive forms add support for scripted events, custom buttons, read-only fields and keyboard access to fields.
Style sheets allow hierarchies of style sheets. The result: Multiple templates can apply to a single document, and style sheets target specific display devices, such as set-top boxes or browsers that translate text into Braille.