News   Features   White Papers   Research Reports   Web Events   Conferences  
September 01, 2010

Table of Contents

Emerging Web Standards: Keeping Up to Stay Ahead
Uniting to facilitate brain research
Autonomy: Empire Builders
Virtual data center for law firms
Navigate semantically

Emerging Web Standards: Keeping Up to Stay Ahead

Twenty years ago when the web was young, the topic of standards was mainly the purview of computer scientists, engineers, and enterprise technologists. But these days, emerging web standards have become everyone's business.

Part of the reason is that the sheer number of standards with which a web entity must comply has mushroomed in the past decade. Mark Rogers, CEO of PowerMapper Software, a U.K.-based software company specializing in website analysis tools, compares the current state of standards to planning a night out at a pub. "In the old days, it was two people trying to figure out when to meet. Now it's much more complicated, because there are a hundred people who have to agree when to meet, and it has to work for every single one of them," Rogers says.

Jeff Whatcott, SVP of marketing at Brightcove, an online video platform, agrees that the current dynamic environment for web standards is unique. "I've never seen it like this," he says. "It's like the browser wars all over again."

For content companies, choosing which emerging standards to embrace requires staying up-to-date with multiple standards bodies, customer environments, commercial implications, federal regulations, and timing challenges. Leveraging standards means getting comfortable with the trade-offs between what's possible now and what's on the horizon.

Standard Issue
Let's start with some basics on what web standards are and why they're worth knowing about-regardless of your technical interest or acumen. According to a manifesto from MACCAWS (Making a Commercial Case for Web Standards), a group of developers active in the early part of the decade helping their peers better communicate the benefits of web standards to nontechnical managers, "Web standards make the Web a place where files can be read by anyone, regardless of what they are using to access the Internet." Such standards seek to make sure that content authors and content users on the web can communicate with one another, regardless of the device upon which the webpage is being experienced.

The benefits of adherence to web standards include easier development and maintenance, which translates into cost savings. Margie Hlava is president, chairman, and founder of Access Innovations, Inc. and is member of the board of the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). She says, "Developing along standards saves money, because you don't have to reinvent the wheel each time."

Of course, few companies develop systems to work in a vacuum; the likelihood that your web-based program will have to play nicely with other applications and developers in the cloud, in an outsourcing arrangement, with customers, or with contractors, is high. Utilizing standards means that future maintenance and development will require less intensive care than a nonstandard program.

Another key benefit is improved accessibility. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recognizes access to information and communications technologies, including the web, as a basic human right. It's regulated by law in many countries including the U.S. and U.K., so standards compliance can be considered a risk mitigation strategy.

But ensuring that people with disabilities can access your web content isn't just a defensive move; it's good business. A blind online shopper, a retiree with aging-related issues managing a portfolio of investments, or a person with repetitive stress injuries preventing him or her from using a standard keyboard all fall into the category of users who need flexible access to the web. That same flexibility-whether made through transcripts of audio files, on-screen text alternatives to images, or scrolling control-can make your site easier to navigate for any customer.

Adherence to web standards also improves SEO. Properly structured HTML is easier for search engines to process. "Search engines have difficulty with broken sites," points out Rogers. "If your page is compliant, you may still not rank at the top. But at least you can be assured that the search engine found everything on the page."

Standards also enable device interoperability. At a time when smartphone and tablet computing is undergoing meteoric growth, the ability to separate content from structure gives assurance to publishers that their content will display in any device in which the user experiences it. Rogers says, "It's a way to future-proof your work. I was just looking at a webpage from the mid 1990s on my iPhone, and because it was HTML compliant it displayed just fine."

Whatcott says, "Multidevice is huge for us right now. Clients want to be sure that their videos will work anyplace they're viewed." With research firm iSuppli releasing a report in June 2010 projecting that global smartphone business will more than double over the next 4 years, with shipments rising to 506 million units in 2014, demand for multidevice viewing is only going to get bigger.

Whose Standards?
However, despite numerous advantages to standards adherence, it's not always easy to figure out which standards to comply with, with a number of organizations issuing standards on topics impacting various aspects of the content industry. Each arose to meet the specific needs of slightly different constituencies, but there's plenty of room for overlap.

There's the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a 163-nation organization for which the official U.S. body is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). ANSI's maintenance agency for library and information standards, including the web, is the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). NISO has issued standards ranging from "Title Pages for Conference Publications" to "The Dublin Core Metadata Element Set," the latter of which defines 15 metadata elements for resource description in a cross-disciplinary information environment.

ISO board member Hlava believes that the length of time it takes to get a standard from initial draft to ratification within NISO (2-5 years) gave impetus to the establishment in 1994 of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), led by Tim Berners-Lee and Jeffrey Jaffe. "The length of time it takes to get NISO standards ratified would be deadly for businesses trying to keep up with web development time frames," she says. "So WC3 came along, and [it] focuses more on web-only issues." WC3's vision statement for the web "involves participation, sharing knowledge, and thereby building trust on a global scale."\

The Library of Congress issues its own digital library standards, including the Metadata Encoding and Transmission Standard (METS) and the Metadata Object Description Standard (MODS), an XML markup schema for selected metadata. There's also the Internet Society (ISOC), an independent international nonprofit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in internet-related standards, education, and policy.

In a positive sign of increased alignment between the various standards organizations, the ISOC announced plans to donate funds to support W3C in December 2009. Hlava says the NISO and W3C are also getting better at talking to each other, communicating more and finding ways to work out conflicting approaches. "We recently came up with a ‘crosswalk' between W3C ontology specifications and ISO thesaurus standards so that the two are not in conflict," she says.

NISO has also introduced a fast-track approval process to cope with what Hlava characterizes as broader interest in commercial standards compliance. "There's more awareness than before. And a lot of customers are putting pressure on their vendors to provide them standards-compliant solutions," says Hlava.

A Long Road to Compliance
In 2008, browser maker Opera, Software ran a test against 3.5 million webpages, using a proprietary metadata analysis and mining tool, with the intent to validate them against W3C web specifications. It found that only 4.13% of the pages were compliant; worse, it found that 50% of pages displaying a badge avowing standards compliance were actually noncompliant.

There's no doubt that fixing noncompliant websites and applications is a daunting task. Rogers says that when his company is hired to check a corporate website for standards compliance violations, it's not uncommon to see 100 problems per webpage. "Multiply that by 100,000 pages on a corporate website, and it can be a long road," Rogers says, particularly at a time when product development teams are competing for scarce resources.

There's also the fact that standards are never set in stone. Melissa Webster, program vice president for IDC's Content and Digital Media Technologies research program, says, "Standards evolve due to the availability of enabling technologies. And, by definition, they come along after innovation; they tend to facilitate rather than drive new development."

Even when a standard is considered relatively stable, there can be significant lag time before it is in common usage. Whatcott points to HTML5, the latest iteration of W3C's standard for markup language facilitating structural semantics for text. "It's not yet supported by all browsers, and even when they do support it, those browser versions will take a while to roll out to desktops. The point is far out in the future when HTML5 will be the lowest common denominator."

Greg Merkle, vice president and creative director at Dow Jones, says, "The question we're all asking right now is, ‘When is Internet Explorer 6.0 going to die?'" Constrained by the widespread usage of a browser that doesn't always render code properly and requires extra work to adapt, Merkle's team was counting the days until July 13, when Microsoft officially dropped support for that version of its popular browser.

And to keep things interesting, when it comes to evolving standards, patent infringements are just a part of the territory. Google recently released an open source HTML5 video codec, VP8, the spoils from its February 2010 acquisition of On2 Technologies. The format competes head-to-head with the more commonly used H.264, the patents for which reside with MPEG LA, a consortium of technology providers who charge royalties for commercial use. "What if H.264 patent holders say VP8 infringes-is it really entirely original?" asks Webster. The idea of an open standard codec for commercial use is appealing, but it could be premature. She adds, "I wouldn't be surprised to see if there are infringement cases filed."

Companies could be faced with a choice of using the VP8 codec as a cost savings move that may end up being adversely impacted by infringement cases or letting the dust settle first and losing a timing advantage.

Striking a Balance
You ask yourself not if this or that is expedient, but if it is right.
-Alan Paton

Author Alan Paton was probably not writing about the conundrum of designing for Internet Explorer 6.0 versus Google Chrome, but he gets to the heart of the conflict for businesses that are weighing standards compliance. "After a decade of working in the web world," says Whatcott, "publishers have learned that they have to be pragmatic. If a standard is going to restrict your audience in any way, it's not that compelling. They're looking for the best possible user experience that will also help them make money."

Merkle likens the process to looking through a dual lens, keeping up-to-date both with current standards and the ones that are emerging. Merkle says that Dow Jones continuously polls its customers to find out what they're using and why they might not be moving to newer standards. He says, "We classify our customers. There are early adopters who can help us validate our long-term vision with regard to standards. And then there is the reality of other customers."

Beyond learning from customers what standards they're tracking and at what pace, content industry companies can help influence the discussion via participation and membership on standards boards. "If you're developing new products, you should try to be part of the conversation," says Hlava. That's not difficult to do; for instance, W3C invites public comment
on its drafts and charters and encourages membership participation in other aspects of its specification development. Early participation in these discussions can help companies anticipate the eventual impacts on product strategy.

Standard in the Spotlight: Video
With standards for everything from authentication to mobile web applications to internationalization under scrutiny right now, it may be instructive to drill down into one high-profile subject-video on the web-as a case study in the careful balance between standards compliance and commercial realities.

For years, the de facto web platform for viewing video has been the Adobe Flash Player. Stable, versatile, and powerful, a Millward Brown survey conducted in March 2010 showed that Flash is the world's most pervasive software platform, used by more than 2 million professionals and reaching 99% of internet-enabled desktops.

And then along came the iPad. With the announcement that Apple would support HTML5 for video, but not Flash, on its devices, the stage for a standards showdown was set. IDC's Webster observes that, "There's no technical reason why Apple can't support Flash. But they've decided to make it about standards because it plays into their interest to control content viewed on their devices."

As defined by Mark Pilgrim in his digital book Dive Into HTML5 (2010, O'Reilly Media), "HTML5 is the next generation of HTML, superseding HTML 4.01, XHTML 1.0, and XHTML 1.1. HTML5 provides new features that are necessary for modern web applications. It also standardizes many features of the web platform that web developers have been using for years, but which have never been vetted or documented by a standards committee." While it is still in Working Draft form within the W3C organization, many of the specifications are considered stable and have already been implemented in commercial products.

Brightcove has supported HTML5 since 2008. But, according to Whatcott, it has not been a "top of mind" issue, requested mainly by customers targeting the iPhone. Compared to functionality Brightcove could offer to Flash users, says Whatcott, HTML5 lacks features of analytics, ad technology, and player customization. Even so, as soon as the Apple announcement was made regarding HTML5, Whatcott says, "Our phone started ringing off the hook."

Publishers are looking at the attributes of the iPad target audience-affluent and loyal-and seeing the clear business impetus to embrace HTML5. To meet customer demand, Brightcove has rolled out a two-stage road map for HTML5 support for its users, which will provide them basic reporting and advertising and eventually analytics as well. "The iPad created immediate urgency around HTML5," Whatcott says, and it may have finally given the push the emerging standard needed to gain broader market acceptance. But for publishers focused on how to provide the best customer experience today, HTML5 may not yet be ready for prime time.
As the debate continues, Dow Jones' Merkle describes a reasonable framework for thinking about standards in general. He says, "I have to consider both where I can make my money now and where the money is eventually going to be."


Access Innovations -
Adobe Systems -
American National Standards Institute (ANSI) -
Apple -
Brightcove, Inc. -
Dive Into HTML5, Mark Pilgrim -
Dow Jones -
Google -
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) -
Internet Society (ISOC) -
Library of Congress -
PowerMapper Software -
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) -

Back to Contents...

Uniting to facilitate brain research

Staff at the Brain Institute, a coordinating center for neuroscience research and education at the University of Utah, wanted to improve collaboration among neuroscientists, engineers, physicians and community partners. The Institute takes a multidisciplinary approach to research, believing that problems found in brain pathologies can be solved across multiple fields of study, not just in one area like biochemistry or psychology. To facilitate that multidisciplinary collaboration, administrators at the Brain Institute sought the tools and infrastructure for members to communicate effectively despite their various locations and disciplines.

Dr. Amy J. Davis, associate director at the Institute, says, "It was a daunting task to think about making collaboration happen. The Brain Institute wanted to build an infrastructure that would support real collaboration."

The Institute also wanted a system in which researchers could communicate on their own time from their own locations but still have a private, secure workspace, with intellectual property protected behind University of Utah firewalls.

After considering various options, the team chose a solution that involves Open Text Collaboration and Vignette (now part of Open Text) Edition. With funding secured for a pilot project, the team went live on a production server with the Open Text collaboration installation dubbed "Unite." The solution helps with grant preparation and administration, and also with building private collaborative workspaces online where colleagues can work together regardless of location or time. Other activities, such as sharing team information and achievements--as well as coordinating meetings, symposia and outreach events--can also be managed through the Unite solution.

The grant-writing community is the main user of Unite to date. The University has a large number of groups using the solution to develop grant proposals for federal funding for research. After the grants have been awarded, administrators use Unite workspace to organize the projects and post-grant administration.

Davis says, "There’s never a question of who has the live document. With Unite, the grant writing process is more efficient and clear. There’s no ambiguity about where the documents are and in what state they are."

According to Open Text, the benefits of the project are:

  • Private and public workspaces allow multidisciplinary teams to work together, regardless of location.
  • Teams benefit from tailored workspaces that offer threaded discussions, blogs, wikis and cross-workspace dashboards.
  • Document versioning and approval tools enhance user efficiency and productivity.
  • Data and intellectual property are secure.
  • Powerful full-text indexing and search mechanisms are available.

The Brain Institute has 140 faculty members from 35 academic departments across four Utah universities.

Back to Contents...

Autonomy: Empire Builders

A few months ago, Autonomy announced its plans to acquire CA's (formerly Computer Associates) Information Governance assets. These consist primarily of two main products: CA Records Manager and CA Message Manager.

This was a surprising acquisition from two angles: first that CA saw so little value in this division that the company decided to dump it, and secondly that Autonomy, which has overlapping technologies, felt the need to buy still more overlapping technologies. In total, Autonomy now lists 30 products in its portfolio, the majority of which have come from a 5-year acquisition spree.

The message from the firm is that these are all "integrated via the IDOL platform," but the reality is that they remain separate code bases, designed by different people, that continue to be developed and supported in the main by different groups. Autonomy is looking more and more like a holding company.

Best known for its enterprise search technology, over the past few years Autonomy has been building a more substantial presence as a GRC (governance, risk, and compliance) vendor. However, if the company hopes to build an integrated ECM solution with all these moving parts, then that is going to be a mighty task that will take many years to complete.

That said, CA had two decent products that essentially provided a two-level approach to compliance. (At Real Story Group, we evaluate them both in our ECM research.) Message Manager employs a general and very practical bucket-style approach to retention that could have Records Manager added to it for those with a need for more granularity. Interestingly, both were CA acquisitions.

Records Manager was from the MDY acquisition in 2005 and had previously been called "FileSurf." Message Manager was from a firm called iLumin that was also acquired in 2005 and, at the time, was a market leader in email management.

Neither acquisition really gelled at CA. At first glance, it seems CA did not really appreciate what it had or the strategic value it could provide to its overall data management practice.

Autonomy, though, already has records management systems (from Meridio and Interwoven) along with archiving from the ZANTAZ acquisition. Now add another two disparate elements to the melting pot.

From an investor's standpoint, this will be seen as good news. From a technology buyer's perspective, the news is far more mixed. For though Autonomy has grown its presence as a GRC vendor, it remains a firm that is tightly controlled by one man: Autonomy's founder, Mike Lynch. Though Autonomy certainly doesn't lack ambition, it has thus far lacked execution. For whereas Oracle, IBM, and EMC ruthlessly and efficiently absorb acquisitions into the whole, Autonomy has not done so well. It has lost many of the best people at the acquired firms, and conversations with Autonomy employees and its customers reveal a lack of goodwill and frustration at the way acquisitions have been administered, customer support delivered, and sales processes executed.

Further, the likes of Oracle, IBM, and EMC do, when necessary, commit huge amounts of resource to technically integrating acquired assets. Autonomy, on the other hand, tends to claim that newly acquired assets are "integrated via the IDOL platform," a story that might wash with some, but leaves the technically savvy wary and unconvinced. All that being said, Autonomy has taken this abrasive approach to business for a long time now, and it is unlikely to change. From Autonomy's perspective, it has an enviable presence in highly regulated and controlled environments, such as government and intelligence, and meets or even surpasses investor expectations.

From a buyer perspective, you need to use a great deal of caution when considering Autonomy as a "suite" vendor for the foreseeable future. You need to ask questions about support, development, and product road maps-and be sure to get solid, documented responses.

The market continues to consolidate, yet at the same time new opportunities arise and new firms enter in. Autonomy has a particular path: It wants to follow that of GRC, and we applaud firms that focus and try to do one thing well. It has bought a number of very good products and made some smart moves over the years, but Autonomy has reached a point now where it either remains a holding company with a marketing-level integration story or commits to the hard work of building out a holistic business, one that is more than the sum of its parts. We'll keep watching ...

Back to Contents...

Virtual data center for law firms

World Software, developer of the Worldox document management systems (DMS) software, has christened Worldox CompleteCloud, a secure virtual data center for law firms.

Powered through a partnership with cloud provider CoreBanc, CompleteCloud is a hosted environment complete with server and desktop software including Worldox, Microsoft Office Professional and Microsoft Exchange.

World Software is said to be the first legal DMS provider to launch its own branded hosted desktop and server offering.

Worldox CompleteCloud includes a core set of essential components including:

  • Worldox GX2 DMS;
  • Windows 7 Virtual Desktop;
  • Microsoft Office Professional 2010 (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Access);
  • Microsoft Exchange with SPAM filtering;
  • managed virtual servers; and
  • all client/server licenses, patch management, backups, redundancy, upstages, etc.

In addition to the CompleteCloud offering, Worldox resellers will be able to integrate other applications such as time and billing and practice management to create a complete legal office bundle.

Back to Contents...

Navigate semantically

Open Text has unveiled Semantic Navigation, a tool that helps audiences naturally navigate through volumes of information based on the inherent meaning of the content and increasing Web marketing and online search effectiveness. Available as a cloud offering or on-premise, Semantic Navigation gives organizations an easy way to improve engagement with online audiences.

The company explains that at the core of the offering is the Open Text Content Analytics engine that extracts meaning, sentiment and context from content and, in turn, unites that content to what a customer or prospect is looking for on a Web site. The result is that audiences more consistently and quickly find helpful, valuable information with much less effort, believes Open Text.

Semantic Navigation is designed to complement any existing Web site, independent of the Web content management system used, either installed on local servers or as an online service provided by Open Text. With the cloud-based offering (currently in beta), organizations can rapidly and inexpensively upgrade their sites’ user experience utilizing a free, fully functional 30-day trial.

Once the trial is activated, Semantic Navigation first collects content through a crawling process. Then the content is automatically analyzed and tagged with relevant and insightful entities, topics, summaries and sentiments--the key to providing an engaging online experience. Next, content is served to users through intuitive navigation widgets that encourage audiences to discover the depth of available information or share it on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. From there, Semantic Navigation supports placement of product and service offerings or advertising to convert page views into sales, claims Open Text.

Back to Contents...
[Newsletters] [Home]

Problems with this site? Please contact the webmaster. | About ITI | Privacy Policy