Simple, standardised collaboration is coming

Like it or not, the Web has been co-opted. Its grassroots foundations have long since been paved over by large companies looking to assert their influence over the direction of Web standards and technology. When did the Web “jump the shark”? With the advent of banner ads? When the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) contemplated allowing royalties on standards? (Take your pick.)

But even while the major battles today are fought by big companies, there are still people out there trying to do things the old-fashioned way — getting together a group of like-minded programmers interested in pushing a standard intended to benefit everyone equally. Such seems to be the case with WebDAV. The WebDAV extensions propose standard ways to let people share and collaborate on documents.

Web’s early promise

It’s essentially trying to fulfil the promise that Tim Berners-Lee saw in the Web early on: users on any platform could simply create, edit and share documents with other users on any other platform in a pain-free way that would promote a living, interactive Web instead of a bloated archive of dead links and out-of-date pages.

Lisa Dusseault, head of server product development at WebDAV server maker Xythos Software (www.xythos.com), outlined last week what WebDAV has to deliver. Lisa’s a member of the WebDAV working group and is putting together a book on WebDAV, so she knows what she’s talking about.

Everyone welcome

She’s serious about wanting WebDAV to work for everyone. How can you tell? She wrote the WebDAV site listed above, has it sitting on Xythos company servers, and still tells people about free and more feature-rich alternatives to her own employer’s products. WebDAV has a good list of supporters right now — everyone from Adobe Systems to Microsoft (though Lisa says that in typical Microsoft fashion, Bill and company’s implementation follows the “embrace and extend” approach to doing business). If you don’t know much about WebDAV, it’s probably worth a few minutes of your time to find out more. w

Submissions are invited on Software sector issues and concerns for the Opinion column on this page. Send columns of about 400 words to Helen_Han@idg.com.au

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