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October 6, 1998

WRITE ONCE RUN ANYWHERE CONTENT IS OPEN GROUP AIM

By CBR Staff Writer

The Open Group will be at Internet World today trying to whip up support for its plan to test browsers for their ability to display content in the way its providers intended (CI No 3,508). TOG says content providers are the most important players on the web but are unable to create portable content as they are effectively held hostage by the way that browser companies implement web standards. Often content created using advanced HTML functions cannot be viewed properly on more than one flavor of web browser. Initially TOG will give away a test suite that evaluates browsers against widely-used HTML, graphics and audio formats. It hopes to follow that with a suite that tests more advanced web features such as dynamic HTML and cascading style sheets. It hopes to win enough support for its plan that browser vendors will be compelled to use the suites, although browser companies we spoke to have yet to back the effort. Netscape Communications Corp said it supported all efforts to standardize browsers but wouldn’t specifically endorse the Open Browser initiative until it had had a chance to evaluate the plans more carefully. Microsoft Corp declined to comment but said it might have more to say on the subject today at the show. Spyglass Inc said desktop unification is a good idea but was concerned that its ability to support a wide variety of platforms, including embedded systems, with different browsers might be impeded if it were required to pass any tests. TOG said that wouldn’t be the case and also pointed to Spyglass’ Prism tool that enables developers to create content that is portable across all of the company’s browser implementations. Opera Software said it will submit its browsers to the test suite. TOG is currently trying to raise money to kick-start the Open Browser program. It will try and tap its sponsors – including Sun, IBM and HP – as well as browser companies, content creators and others. In addition to giving away test suites for browsers, TOG would sell other suites for testing client environments that use browsers as front ends, and another for testing content itself. It will also collect license fees from companies that would use its brand on conformant products. The Open Group’s network computing program manager Shane McCarron told ComputerWire the idea for an Open Browser initiative stemmed from other work TOG has done to create specifications being used by network computer vendors to ensure products are compatible. Part of the NC specification requirement was to ensure content could be run and displayed uniformly on multiple devices. McCarron says his team quickly realized the problems they encountered in this area were not limited to NCs but applied to all networked devices. McCarron says content providers that TOG has approached with its browser initiative plan have all been supportive of its effort. TOG’s working in conjunction with the Web Standards Group.

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