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Taking the web agenda beyond communications

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One way of thinking about the Internet today is as a library of libraries. There are many different information collections, organised in their own ways. Essentially on the Web we can search and read.

There are a few opportunities to interact more actively with these collections. You can, for example, search the ajplus products directory or buy a book online. But the modes of interaction are relatively basic - ticking a box, picking from a menu, keying in a number. By comparison, interacting with a CAD system is a world away in sophistication.

Why the difference? Of course the Web began just as a messaging system, but has developed. Today the most evident problem is speed. If we tried to interact with a CAD program at the pace of reloading Web pages, nothing would ever get finished.

Speed is set to improve over coming months. Not perfectly, but enough to throw into relief the next problem on the critical path. However much speed we have, the Internet today doesn't have the capacity to 'understand' us in a way that a CAD program understands when we draw a line or develop a door schedule. The web needs that capacity too.

Partly this involves moving on from the current web language of HTML - which only sets up web pages as if they were pictures - to XML. This language provides data structures that will allow the Internet to understand our input.

Along with this, architecture, and any other discipline, needs to work within the XML's structures to develop standards for describing the discipline's objects, such as parts of buildings or cost models. These standards may come from current international collaboration (www. iai. org. uk) and/or growth of de facto standards.

The potential is huge - open communications and open interaction.

The Internet becomes a shared working environment for everyone.

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