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Preface

The book in your hands introduces you to XForms, a combination of two of the most successful experiments ever performed with the Web: XML and forms.

2003 marks the 10-year anniversary of forms on the Web. During that time, the Web grew from a loose collection of technical research sites to the livelihood of millions, browser empires have risen and fallen, and the tech economy went through an inflationary period of cosmic proportions only to collapse back in upon itself. The addition of forms to the otherwise static HTML language in 1993 was a revolutionary step forward, making possible Yahoo!, Google, Amazon, Hotmail, and countless other interactive sites.

During the mid-nineties, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) began work on XML, a uniform way to represent structured text and data, in an attempt to simplify an earlier language called SGML. XML became a W3C Recommendation in 1998, and has since gained momentum, becoming the foundation for XHTML, SVG, the Universal Business Language (UBL), syndication formats such as RSS, and DocBook (which was used to write this book). Nearly every data format that consists primarily of human-readable data has been influenced by XML.

At last, XForms—officially described at http://www.w3.org/TR/xforms—provides a way for web forms to serve as XML data collection tools. Increasingly, IT departments are using XML and native XML databases to store mission-critical data. Workflow and routing systems rely on XML for data representation. Web services, which are growing immensely in popularity, are the final piece of the puzzle—making it easy (and providing needed tool support) to send and receive XML data and documents.