RTF/Rainbow [Was: Netscape v NCSA, Progress? ]

Daniel W. Connolly (connolly@hal.com)
Tue, 18 Oct 1994 03:26:38 -0500

In message <9410180515.AA00739@storm.mcom.com>, Eric Bina writes:
>> The test is whether they THEN are willing to submit to community review AND
>> MODIFICATION. And this must be done in an open forum, such as an open
>> standards group. (I'm biased towards the IETF, but choose any one that is
>> open and effective.)
>They just repeat over and over, "Yes, we admit that hundreds (thousands?)
>of people want formatting control, but they are all wrong, and SGML/HTML
>is content not format so tough." So what should I do when the open
>standards group insists on a standard that is not what our customers
>(the ones who will indirectly be paying my salary) want?

You don't _have_ to squeeze all the features into HTML. You can
make up other document formats, if folks want page layout etc.

It's not so much that formatting control is "wrong," but that it
is meaningless in some contexts, and it does more harm than good
to let authors think that they can use some idiom to express their
ideas when in fact that idiom will be lost in translation.

Before making a change to HTML, it's wise to ask questions like: how
does this translate to ASCII? To braille? Should this feature be
provided as is, or made more general to solve a much larger set of
problems for marginally more cost?

The "right" answer for your customer base might not be the same as the
"right" answer for 90% of the folks that use HTML. (I've been at a
start-up company, and I've seen how time-to-market affects the
decision making process. It's not pretty :-{ )

Marc Wrote:
>I would more than welcome comments on how people on this list think
>we can all move forward together quickly to address the intense
>market demand for enhanced functionality -- particularly for
>functionality related to advanced control over layout and
>appearance, which is of urgent concern to an amazingly broad
>spectrum of the potential customer base, as has been the case
>for over a year and a half.

It's clear that Adobe PDF is hitting the web. It's a solution to
many problems. That's one way to go.

I think it's time to admit that RTF is a solution to another
interesting class of problems, and support that format where
applicable. Lord knows there's a lot more software for creating RTF
than HTML (though the interoperability of such software is pretty

Isn't there some working group looking at "net-RTF," i.e. some
interoperable subset of RTF?

Or, if you don't like RTF per se, have a look at a representation
of RTF semantics in SGML -- the Rainbow DTD from EBT and contributors:


An RTF display window with configurable mappings from HTML->RTF would
be a powerful architecture.

Another option is the Semantic Delivery Language (SDL) used in
HP Help (aka CDE Help).

Or call it text/x-mozilla-html.

But please don't call it HTML without public review.