HTML forms getting a tune-up

World Wide Web Consortium home page

The mechanisms for HTML forms will be updated this week — seven years after the specification saw its last major overhaul.

The XForms working group of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is meeting this week in Victoria, British Columbia, to update HTML forms for more modern technology.

"HTML forms is way behind where today's Web browsers are," said David Manning, chief technology officer at PureEdge Solutions Inc., a creator of legally binding transactions for e-commerce and a member of the XForms working group.

Randy Souza, associate analyst at Forrester Research Inc. agreed: "The obvious difference between today and seven years ago is that people are accessing more types of information from more types of devices. As we move toward more complex business-to-business transactions, the interface in HTML doesn't scale."

HTML, for instance, is capable of putting five or six fields in a form, but it cannot handle more complex business documents such as purchase orders.

The specification for XForms separates the user interface from the data and logic, enabling different presentations to be used with the same back end, according to officials. In doing so, the same form can be filled out via a PC, a handheld or a cellular phone and then can exchange data into the same back-end system.

Additionally, developers can write forms onto which users can drag and drop their personal information — such as their credit card number, name, phone number and address — and the form will know to put each piece of data into the corresponding field.

"This needs to happen in order for Web and e-commerce to take the next jump," Manning said.

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