XML 2000 Show Floor Review

December 7, 2000

Simon St. Laurent

A review of interesting and new technology from the show floor at XML 2000.

Schemantix Takes a Schema-Centric Approach to Web Applications

Schemantix was showing a set of open source tools, the Schemantix Development Platform, for building web interfaces on XML Schemas. Matthew Gertner of Schemantix described the toolset as "way to move beyond HTML templates ... where your application logic is spread across the templates, and if you want to reuse that functionality, you probably don't want exactly the same presentation."

Schemantix is founded on (and renamed itself to reflect) the principle that schemas provide a useful and reusable collection of information about information structures, and that information can be used in ways that go beyond validation. Information structures are being forced into more and more different presentations, and keeping up with the connections between information models and those presentation structures becomes more and more difficult as the number of models and presentations grows.

Gertner thinks Schemantix has an answer to the ever-growing task of managing web applications: "What you want is a way to store all this application logic in a central location, and just generate it just automatically - it's the holy grail. The perfect kind of repository for this information is XML schemas. And this has the major advantage that everything is XML based."

Schemantix includes micro-components which can be used to build form-based interfaces to information, supporting simple form input as well as complex multi-form input with optional features. Schemas -- W3C XML Schemas and SOX, along with Schema Adjunct Framework -- give developers a set of tools for describing information, while XSLT transformations provide a tool for customizing the views created by the micro-components.

Gertner also noted upcoming work on XForms at the W3C and the client-side approach of Mozquito. "We'll be able to fit into the XForms world and complement Mozquito's client-side approach with a server-side approach. It's all about choices."

Fourthought Presents OpenTechnology and 4Suite

The Fourthought booth was showing off 4Suite and 4SuiteServer, an open source (Apache license) Python-based set of tools for working with DOM, XSLT, XLink, RDF, XPointer; and, a web site architecture built on 4Suite. Fourthought is a consulting firm and has applied its experience with specific projects to create libraries which could be reused across those projects.

Uche Ogbuji, Senior Consultant at Fourthought, notes that "4Suite is written in Python, but we went for a platform-independent, language-independent approach. We have customers writing CORBA wrappers in Java and letting 4SuiteServer do its work in Python." 4SuiteServer has evolved over the last two years from a base in 4DOM to a set of seven modules which rely on each other's services. is a web application built on top of 4SuiteServer and uses XML, RDF, and XSLT to create customized interactive sites. Users can create (or simply choose) their own skins, letting them explore the site in the way they find most comfortable. They can also create rules for filtering information, helping them find the information they are most interested in while banning common nuisances like spam.

Kinecta Offering Free Syndication Tool

Kinecta is offering a free tool that organizations can use to syndicate content over ICE to as many as five customers. Syndicator Lite, distributed in a pre-release edition at XML 2000, should be available for download in the next few months.

"We intend to get ICE more broadly accepted and also to help customers understand the syndication model and how it pertains to the Internet," said Amir Kader of Kinecta. Syndicator Lite provides much of the functionality of Syndicator and Syndicator Enterprise, giving developers a strong taste of the control that distinguishes ICE-based publishing from HTTP-based distribution, while letting them use HTTP content as a foundation, "managing the matrix of who gets what when."

Kinecta Syndicator Lite requires a Java Virtual Machine and uses a web interface, allowing developers to choose their own platforms for information management. Administrators can control offers, subscribers, and delivery rules, implementing subscription relationships. Content can be stored in file systems, web servers, and (with development) other systems, making integration of Syndicator Lite with existing services a relatively easy process.

Architag Presents Real-Time XML Editing

Architag International was showing off a final beta version of XRay, their free tool for editing XML. XRay validates documents against DTDs or schemas (currently XDR, including datatypes) continuously while authors type them, and it can show the results of XSLT transformations on the fly as well. No DTD or schema is required, however -- developers can create well-formed XML and take advantage of syntax highlighting and XSLT viewing without creating a DTD or schema.

Architag's primary focus is on training. XRay was developed as a teaching tool. The basic XML editor gives instant feedback on whether a document is XML-conformant (valid if a DTD or schema is provided, well-formed if not), and its error window lets developers jump right to the source of a problem. While its core XML editor is a text editor with syntax highlighting, with all the angle brackets visible, developers can also work with XSLT transformations. Changes made in the XML document are instantly reflected in the XSLT transformation, and multiple preview windows can even show multiple views of the same information.

According to Architag President Bryan Snyder "Architag trains people all over the world, and those training experiences led us to build this tool. XRay helps users get a grounding in XML by giving them immediate feedback about their work as they do it."

Ontopia Demonstrates Topic Map Engine and Navigators

While stamping visitor "passports," Ontopia was demonstrating a beta version of their Ontopia Topic Map engine, walking visitors through a topic map describing opera -- operas, composers, cities, and more.

"Ontopia helps users get on top of their data," said Steve Pepper, CTO of Ontopia. "It's Intel Inside, but Ontopia on top."

While Ontopia may sound mythical, and acknowledged plenty of competition on the topic maps front, Pam Gennusa noted that "We're also looking at it on top of business processes, to create a common interface on top of multiple types of databases, across multiple types of data, across layers of topic maps that give people a wider view of what they have."

Ontopia plans to ship 1.0 versions of its engine and navigator in the first quarter of 2001. And they will be developing additional topic maps components to supplement this core. They also plan to offer services to complement the tools, helping organizations make their information -- and not just their XML information --a ccessible.