Netscape Communications last week gave the freeware developer community working on the Mozilla project some Extensible Markup Language (XML) source code to toy with that may result in end-user client products that better support XML.
By opening up source code for an XML parser and uncompleted source code for an HTML and XML layout engine, Netscape is continuing its unique foray of opening up its commercial client software assets for free license.
The hope is that unpaid outside engineers and hackers will create a better technology from the scraps of work begun at Netscape as a next generation of its Communicator family of Web-based clients. Instead of releasing Communicator 5.0, Netscape changed course late last month and released the raw code instead.
Last week, Netscape added two more modules to the code available from the http://www.mozilla.org/ Web site. They include:
* an XML parser, code-name Expat, developed by James Clark, the technical lead of the XML working group at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and one of the original creators of XML. Clark's XML parser is the first major addition from an independent third-party software developer to the Mozilla effort; and
* a "technical preview" of a next-generation layout engine, formerly code-name Raptor, that if completed will support HTML 4.0, the W3C Document Object Model, Cascading Style Sheets, XML, and Resource Description Framework. It is designed to allow third parties to add to and extend the capabilities of the layout engine into more formats.
In a nutshell, an XML parser resides on client software, and like an HTML parser, identifies tags and pulls them out of the stream of data. The layout engine, which in the case of Raptor is a general rendering engine, then displays the information on the screen for the viewer to interpret.
Between the two modules, developers may soon craft a small and fast client that can accept XML in many forms, from tags to entire XML documents, and process them on the client side. The client may also become an authoring tool for XML tags and documents.
"If you are interested in XML and doing XML development, this provides the direction and a basis to work on XML development in either your own products or in the Mozilla effort," said Eric Byunn, group product manager for Communicator at Netscape.
Although this new source code offering may entice developers and ISVs, end-users should not expect a branded product from Netscape any time soon. The Mountain View, California-based company will only say that it plans to deliver a beta version of Communicator by the end of 1998. Officials will not say whether the next beta of Communicator will include the XML capabilities made available this week in the source code.
"We really feel that XML is a really strong technology going forward, and this will help lead the wider adoption of XML," said Byunn, declining to offer any product specifics for Netscape. "It's really a glimpse into the development process. I can't say when any products will arrive."
Netscape Communications Corp., in Mountain View, California, is at http://home.netscape.com/.