Building a World Wide Web based Document Management Solution Integrating Database Technology With the World Wide Web
The information available today on the Internetís World Wide Web is staggering. Searching for a specific item of information is often a frustrating experience. Search engines might yield hundreds, sometimes thousands of hits in response to specific search criteria. This forces you to examine a long list of often irrelevant information.

Searching for information on the World Wide Web is like trying to find a specific file. Only the file system directory spans the millions of hosts connected to the virtual network of networks the Internet has become and provides a countless amount of storage capacity.

Another major weakness is that indexes are build after-the-fact. If I were to hear rumors of an important merger or acquisition on a given day, I might fail to find information on the Net simply because it takes a while for the Netís indexing processes to catch up with the latest content.

Luckily, history repeats itself. The Internet is revealing, on a large scale, a problem that our industry has been grappling with for many years on a much different scale. Documents were created and stored throughout the enterprise with no good method to promote sharing or reuse of the information they contained. Many companies have turned to Document Management Systems to address this challenge. A document management system for the World Wide Web could enable us to address these issues.

We can envision a document management system that manages a Web siteís content using a database management system as its index. The DBMS could provide for a much richer set of metadata describing each item published. Content could be indexed, described and categorized as it is published on the World Wide Web. When removed, the item is removed immediately.

Since the index is available to anyone who can read the DBMS, this allows components such as agents and workflow engines to be more easily designed and integrated by third parties.

While a single huge Document Management System that contains the entire contents of the World Wide Web is unlikely, many company specific systems are not. As a method of organizing the corporate Intranet, the solution seems a perfect fit.

It is not hard to imagine a huge Internet system which organizes each corporate Intranet system. A distributed Document Management System may be what the Internet needs. The solution would have to be as scaleable as the Internetís Domain Name System (DNS) services. We would need to conceive of standards for cataloging and indexing data, and then sharing that information with a network of search facilities. The solution would also have to be open, and easy to implement and benefit from in order to spark the required rapid adoption.

Many new capabilities could be enabled by a Document Management System that becomes as pervasive as DNS or the Web.

Searches that are refined to only include clusters of companies would be more relevant. Intelligent agents that would notify me when information is available or has been updated would save tremendous amounts of surf time.

Workflow engines that prompt me with a to-do list of next steps would help eliminate items falling through the cracks of an already overburdened schedule.

The Internet, and now the Intranets, represent the success that can be built upon internetworking standards. A better future Net lies in our ability to extend these standards to include new enablers. An Internet Document Management System standard appears to be a desirable next step.


Ronald G. Howell
Senior Systems Engineer
Electronic Data Systems Corporation
ron.howell@exch.eds.com
(214) 605-0681