October 21, 1996 2:30 PM PDT

Microsoft brandishes its Trident

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At its conference for Web developers next week, Microsoft (MSFT) will debut a technology that could greatly enhance the look and feel of ordinary HTML pages but could stir up more conflict with Netscape Communications for control of HTML standards.

Code-named Trident, Microsoft's technology will provide developers with a framework for creating Web pages that, for example, dynamically change layouts when prompted by certain actions, such as when a user passes a mouse over a screen icon.

Microsoft's chief competitor in the browser market, Netscape, is already working on a similar technology, called JavaScript Style Sheets, and in fact introduced the new style sheets at its own developers' conference last week in New York.

With Trident and the JavaScript Style Sheets, Microsoft and Netscape are hoping to provide a richer, more interactive experience for users by combining the capabilities of HTML, style sheets, and scripting. Today, developers can create interactive Web pages using Java and ActiveX controls, but those technologies tend to be far more complex than scripting and HTML programming.

"You have scripting inside of browsers today, but you can only script things like controls or applets," said John Roskill, group product manager in Microsoft's Internet platform tools group. "There is no way to control style sheets. You need an object framework and an event model. Today, getting a mouse-over event on some random piece of HTML is impossible."

Both companies have submitted their technologies to the World Wide Web Consortium as potential new standards for Web programming. The W3C could adopt both proposals or pick one, but both companies will continue to push their own solutions to their developers while the organization deliberates.

Although W3C officials would not comment on the specific proposals from Netscape and Microsoft, they did say the organization has taken both under consideration. They added that the latest Microsoft and Netscape technologies won't change HTML directly but would extend it using programming techniques such as scripting languages.

"The proposals are not changes to HTML," said Daniel Connolly, leader of the architecture domain at the W3C. "It's not new tags. It's ways to write scripts that build pages out of existing tags."

Although next week is the first time that Trident capabilities will be shown publicly, Microsoft submitted its specification for Trident to the W3C last month, referring to the technology as its HTML Object Model, or "active HTML." Microsoft will eventually incorporate Trident into Internet Explorer but hasn't decided which version, according to sources familiar with the company's plans.

Netscape officials said they submitted their JavaScript Style Sheets proposal four months ago. But Netscape officials would not comment on how Trident and its Style Sheets might overlap.

"The Style Sheets is a powerful way for developers to express style in their documents," said Daniel Klaussen, product marketing manager at Netscape. "We want to bring capabilities of HTML to the next level. If Trident becomes a standard, we will look at it more closely," Klaussen said.

In addition to Trident, Microsoft will demonstrate Explorer 4.0 at its SiteBuilder developer conference next week and several other browser capabilities that might find their way into Explorer 5.0.

 

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