UniForum On-line Products Directory Presented at Web Conference

UniForum's project that made its 1994 Open Systems Products Directory available for members on the Internet was the subject of a discussion at the First International World Wide-Web Conference. The conference was held May 25-27 at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, just outside Geneva, Switzerland.

Speaking for UniForum, IS Manager Robert Boucher described the products directory project to a publishing workshop. The directory became available in March through the World-Wide Web, allowing general members access to the entire contents of the 1,672-page printed products directory through hypertext links.

"We seem to be the only ones doing database publishing on the Web," Boucher says. "I haven't seen anyone else doing it. Other databases are on-line but they were not originally in printed form." Of special interest to the workshop attendees was UniForum's method of protecting the product directory database from access by non-members, Boucher said. Many are interested in selling information via the Web but have not ventured into that area. "The whole excitement is about commercialization-how it can be used to improve business. We're on the cutting edge in restricting access to paid members," Boucher says.

Boucher used standard software tools available in current release for the directory project and did not do any software development himself, he notes, adding, "We're lucky in that our documents are very simple."

Publishers of magazines are worried that they may lose either advertisers or subscribers if their publications become available on the Web. Other issues that arose in the publishing workshop included how to present a publication in its original layout and the question of copyrights and lack of control over a publication in electronic form.

Another major topic of discussion at the conference was the future of the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), a stripped-down version of Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), that is used in formatting documents for the Web. Using markup tags in the text, HTML describes the structure of a document so that the document can be portable from one machine to another.

Discussion mainly centered around what changes should go into version 3.0, the next release of HTML, to improve on the current version 2.0. HTML 2.0 includes all the current functions of the Mosaic interface program for the Web. While the next version is expected to address text formatting issues such as centering of text, many urged that it also deal with graphical presentation of mathematical formulas, an issue important to the academic-minded attendees.

The Second International World-Wide Web Conference '94, hosted by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, is scheduled for Oct. 17-20 in Chicago, IL. More information is available via: (http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/SDG/IT94/IT94Info.html). Or send e-mail to lori@osf.org or phone (617) 621-7343.

As always, you can access the UniForum World Wide Web server by pointing your client to http://www.uniforum.org.