W3C approves specification for Web site scripting

Seeking to establish an industry standard for Web site scripting, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published the Document Object Model (DOM) Level 2 HTML specification as a W3C Recommendation, constituting an endorsement as a W3C standard.

The specification provides for a language-neutral interface to allow programs and scripts to dynamically access and update the content, structure and style of HTML and XHTML 1.0 documents, according to W3C.

The specification is intended as a standard API for manipulating HTML and XHTML 1.0 documents and data through a programming language such as Java or ECMAscript, W3C said. Featured in Version 2 is support for XHTML documents, in which DOM now can be used to manipulate both XML-based XHTML or HTML. Also key to Version 2.0 is support for frames, in which content of a page is divided into several parts and objects.

Use of DOM Level 2.0 “means you don’t have to write multiple scripts to manipulate an HTML document,” said W3C spokesperson Janet Daly.

“There’s one uniform application programming interface,” she said.

Support for DOM is needed in browsers, but much of the support needed for DOM Level 2.0 already exists, Daly said.

An analyst, however, while saying the specification could yield better Web browsers, said support is still needed.

“DOM Level 2 is the latest rev of this model,” said Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, in Waltham, Mass., in an e-mail response to an inquiry.

“While this is important for the developer crowd, the user population as a whole won’t really have much interaction with the DOM. It really is up to Web browser vendors like Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera, and the like to add this functionality to their products. So, we will need to wait until this makes its way into products before we can see any benefit,” he said.

“Specifically, this is the DOM that is meant for HTML and XHTML viewing,” Schmelzer said. “So, what does this mean for the general population? It means that we now have a way to produce better Web browsers that can do more interactive features without having to download lots of plug-ins or use proprietary browser technology for certain aspects of dynamic HTML.”

But the specification is not downward-compatible, Schmelzer said.

“This means that developers who build applications using DOM Level 2 won’t be building products compatible with current DOM browser technology. This could be a problem,” he said.

“But on the plus side, DOM Level 2 now supports XHTML, which is the newest spec for intelligent Web pages. The move to DOM Level 2 could actually help the W3C get people to adopt XHTML, which has been very slow to gain user traction,” he said.