Special Section

Emerging Information Standards

by Irene L. Travis, editor of the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science

New and emerging standards are a constant source of expanded possibilities for information professionals as we work to create and deliver information and information products. The five articles presented here typify the variety and importance of current developments. Since the Web is the most dynamic area of the industry at present, it is not surprising that most of these efforts are Web-related, but some have broader application. Several of them are interrelated in ways that are explained in the discussions.

First, Gloria Shobowale looks at standards from the point of view of an industry, in this instance, health care. The standards required for implementing robust health care data interchange range from protocols for medical device communications to those for the structuring and exchange of administrative, financial and clinical records. Standards play a central role in all aspects of these critical applications.

Next, Martin Bryan of the SGML Centre introduces us to the Extensible Markup Language (XML), a powerful tool for Web publishing. XML, unlike the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), now the backbone of Internet publishing, is a true subset of the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML). It will greatly increase the scope and possibilities for structuring documents on the Web and ease the conversion of such documents to and from other publishing formats. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) sponsors XML.

The Resource Description Framework (RDF) is an application of XML, also supported by the W3C. Eric Miller describes RDF as a key umbrella technology designed to allow the interchange of metadata utilizing the multiple standards and schemes that are inevitably emerging to meet the highly divergent needs of different types of resources and user communities.

Finally, Chuck Fay and Jim Whitehead discuss two standards efforts that were begun with different goals by different groups, but have developed parallel and complementary capabilities. They support critical improvements in our ability to generate and manage documents on the Web and other environments. The Document Management Alliance (DMA) is an industry group working under the aegis of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM). Their goal has been to develop a set of application program interfaces (API) that would allow any compliant document management client to communicate with any compliant document management server to search and retrieve documents.

The Web Distributed Author Protocol, WebDAV, on the other hand, began with the goal of allowing multiple authors to edit documents on the Web. As an aspect of document management, however, multi-author editing also requires the ability to search and access multiple document repositories. An extension to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), WebDAV has been developed within the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The IETF sponsors and adopts standards for the World Wide Web. A number of DMA members are working within the WebDAV IETF Working Group to maximize the interoperability between WebDAV and DMA.

We hope you find these updates useful. If there are other standards that you would like to see covered in the Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science, please let us know and we will be happy to include them in future issues.

Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science