ChannelManager: Who’s in charge here?

October 20, 1997

Seybold Report on Internet Publishing
Vol 2, No 2

Data and applications interact—when something changes on the screen, how do you say which one is in control? For example, if you pull in a new page with a graphic or an applet, the application window looks different. If you want to change the user interface, you do so directly in the application, such as by turning your toolbar on and off. In a typical desktop application, even one that "pushes" content to your desktop, the data changes, but the user interface stays constant.

With the Web browser becoming an application user interface, we are beginning to see application functions that once resided in menus and popup windows (e.g., check-in/check-out) becoming embedded in the document open in your browser. But even then, these functions are typically driven by an application server responding to scripted actions. How is ChannelManager different?

ChannelManager, like any browser, can point to pages and change the content of a window. In Figure 1, the sales chart is a content page. What’s different here is that the user interface—here the menu on the left starting with "Administration" and the tabs and items above the chart—are driven off of XML data and are dynamically updated as channels.

In effect, the data is the desktop. To change the GUI, you are pointing to different data in a repository outside the client application, not changing a script or a program within the application. ChannelManager "pushes" not only the content, it shapes the user interface, and behind the scenes, it is XML metadata that is pulling the strings.

What benefits does this technical approach provide? For users, it means tighter control over the information that reaches their desktops and a single interface to multiple applications. For managers, it means added flexibility, less maintenance and training, and simplified development. Information resources can be distributed according to business need, on demand, without all of the headaches that usually accompany development of new ways of accessing and manipulating information. For publishers, it means greater leverage for the markup they add to their content.