The W3C recommended a migration to XML of web content in January 2000. It's called the XHTML recommendation. The language was further updated to XHTML 1.1 in 2001, and again it was approved by the W3C membership as a full recommendation. The point is that these recommendations represent more than 6 years of the W3C recommending an XML basis for the future of the web.
The XForms working group defines an important web technology: the next generation of web forms. The technology became a recommendation in 2003 and had a significant refinement earlier this year. Again, XForms has been approved by the W3C membership.
One reason behind the strength of the XForms community is its broad applicability as a web technology. XForms defines the core XML data processing asset, whether the data processing needs be simple or complex. It is designed to be connected to numerous host languages like XHTML, SVG, Voice XML, XSL-FO and even XML vocabularies like XFDL (the one used on Workplace Forms to provide a secure, high-precision presentation for XForms).
The point is that the web is more than just what web browser makers implement. Part of the reason for this is that web browser makers don't tend to make much money on web browsers, so their desire to pour development dollars into their proper maintenance is stunted. As a result, web technologies have flourished from numerous third parties who are helping to define the future nature of web content. Frankly, the browser makers so this coming and created the notion of a plugin precisely to allow web technologies to flourish without their having to do all the work. Really, it's analogous in that respect to open source.
I think the W3C has somewhat lost sight of these facts recently. There appears to be some fear that browser maker lag in implementing some of the recommendations equates with the W3C not "leading the web to its full potential." I respectfully disagree. The situation is not nearly so black and white. The web is supposed to work this way. The web cannot afford to be constrained to the limitations of a browser maker hegemony, especially when they don't even really want the job and have given us the tools to catch our own fish, so to speak.
This brings us to the topic of the recent escalation of Web Forms 2.0 from a member submission by a web browser maker to a first public working draft. The original W3C Team acknowledgement strongly encouraged that the work of accounting for the member submission be placed squarely in the new charters of the XForms and HTML working groups. I can only conjecture that its publication as a working draft of the WAF WG was designed to make sure that the issues raised by Web Forms 2.0 do get addressed, and right soon.
Don't get me wrong. Web Forms 2.0 has some good ease-of-authoring features. By ease-of-authoring I do also mean to imply a smoother migration path for existing HTML-based web content. Members of the XForms working group have been tracking the development of this document, and it turns out to be not too difficult to accommodate the most critical features. However, there are features of Web Forms 2.0, like the repeat construct, which diverge from the conceptual model of XForms for no apparent reason. I would expect that such divergences would be replaced by the XForms basis in the future. One aspect of Web Forms 2.0 that does need the most work is that it really is asking the W3C to take a giant 6 or 8 year leap backward away from an XML basis for web content. This seems a less viable demand, esp. since tag soup HTML UAs are perfectly capable of recognizing markup that isn't ill-formed!
In general, it is true that ease of browser implementation of new features is one important concern, but IBM believes that there are many important factors that contribute not only to the total cost of ownership of web applications but also to the ability to create and maintain a significantly broader spectrum of current and future web technologies. IBM believes that these factors are important enough that it is essential to use new features of HTML as an enticement toward greater conformance of web content to XML syntax. Moreover, IBM strongly advocates for the renewed charter of the XForms and HTML working groups to include unification of the Web Forms 2.0 work with emphases on the ease-of-use benefits from WF2 and the XML basis from XForms. There will be compromises required of all parties, but also significant synergies that become possible by accommodating the full range of forms expertise available in the W3C.
The above are excerpts from the full IBM position statement, which has been posted to the W3C chairs list, the W3C AC Forum, and the public lists of the XForms, HTML and Web Application Formats working groups. See the XForms posting and the WAF WG posting.
In conclusion, I do not by any means want to constrain XForms to only one host language (XHTML). However, I also do not want to downplay the importance of the XHTML host language in helping to bring the great technology that XForms is to the people. The XForms working group is committed to a unification of the best that the Web Forms 2.0 has to offer. We already have a decent implicit data generation feature, and we look forward to expanding that to implicit data model generation so that the easier
on the glass authoring experience can be provided while still allowing the XHTML and XForms standards to scale up to the needs of larger web applications. It really will be the best of both worlds, so please do what you can to communicate to your W3C AC Reps that this is the way to go!