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PARIS, FRANCE -- March 5, 1996 -- The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at INRIA and MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science has announced a major step in building a coherent World Wide Web, the universe of hyperlinked information available on the Internet. As part of a W3C convergence initiative, Consortium members have agreed to develop a common way of integrating style sheets into the Web's hypertext documents. Participating members include: Adobe Systems Incorporated, America Online, Compuserve, Eastman Kodak Company, Grif S.A., Hewlett Packard, IBM Corporation, Matra Hachette, Microsoft Corporation, NCSA, Netscape Communications Corporation, Oracle Corporation, O'Reilly & Associates Inc., Reed-Elsevier, SoftQuad and Spyglass Inc. The style sheet efforts will be based on Håkon Lie's Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) initiative, to be further refined by a group of experts within the W3C.

"Microsoft is pleased that W3C is driving the style sheets standardization efforts on the Web," said John Ludwig, Vice President of the Internet Platform and Tools Division at Microsoft. "We are fully committed to supporting the style sheets initiative in all of our Internet efforts."

"As the Web continues to expand, content developers will need the technology to accurately present their information to the broadest possible audience," said Jeff Treuhaft, Senior Product Manager at Netscape. "Style sheets will assure this presentation in today's cross-platform environment and we're very supportive of W3C taking a lead role in defining this technology."

Currently, content providers do not have the control they have in print media over color, text indentation, positioning, and other aspects of style. A style sheet language offers a powerful and manageable way for authors, artists and typographers to create the visual effects they want. "Style sheets will make the Web a more interesting place. It will allow companies to easily adopt a house look and feel, and this will help give readers a sense of where they are and what they are reading", said David Siegel of Verso.

"Hachette Livre, creater, owner and provider of information, strongly supports publishing technologies based upon the style sheets paradigm. Style sheets allow for optimization of content processing and provide for portability on any type of medium," said Alain Pierrot, Electronic Publishing Manager of Hachette Livre.

"Through hyperlinks, style sheets can be pointed to from Web documents and this will dramatically simplify the maintenance of Web sites. "We can put our company style into a single style sheet," said Dale Dougherty of Songline Studios, an affiliate of O'Reilly and Asssociates. "If the company later changes the style of its presentation, we only need to make changes in one place."

The main document format on the Web, the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), was intentionally designed as a simple language that valued document structure over document presentation. The enormous commercial interest in the Web has called for enhanced presentations. "Style sheets nicely combine structured documents with great-looking screens," said Tim Berners-Lee, Director of W3C. "A widely deployed style sheet format will ensure interoperability on the Web."

"The definition of a common style sheet format for HTML documents will offer significant advantages over the numerous proprietary solutions which currently exist on the Web", said Bertrand Mélèse, President of Grif. "We are pleased to be involved in the development of the standard and look forward to adding support for CSS in our HTML authoring tools."

Style sheets will also improve the printing of Web documents. Paper has different properties from a computer screen and the differences can be accounted for in a style sheet. "Web authors should be confident that their documents will look as good -- or better -- on paper as they do on computer screens," said George Lynch, Imaging Program Manager of Hewlett-Packard. "Style sheets are a key first step in achieving this. HP is a strong supporter of the W3C to create open industry standards such as this."

"Adding support for page design and style is an important next step for HTML documents on the Web," said SoftQuad's Product Manager, Murray Maloney. "Our products currently support style sheets for SGML documents. We look forward to adding support for CSS in future versions of our HTML publishing products."

The CSS style sheet mechanism allows authors, as well as readers to influence the presentation of HTML documents. "Visually impaired Web users may need increased font sizes and will be among the first to benefit from style sheets," said T. V. Raman of Adobe Systems. "Also, CSS provides a framework for speech style sheets. By describing intonation, pauses and other components of speech along with non-speech sound cues, a style sheet can produce rich aural presentations." Raman himself is blind and is currently using his prototype implementation of speech style sheets to access the Web.

"NCSA is committed to supporting style sheets in its Mosaic browser, and to helping to develop and support all industry standards for use in Web technology. CSS is an important step forward in interoperability on the Web. This exciting technology will allow publishers the layout flexibility that has been needed since the beginning, without sacrificing the important principles of document structure that HTML and SGML provide," said Briand Sanderson, Technical Program Manager for NCSA Mosaic.

While the flexibility of the Web architecture will not prevent the use of other style sheet languages, W3C's CSS will provide a firm foundation for a widely deployed interoperable style sheet language.

The W3C exists to realize the full potential of the World Wide Web, the universe of network-accessible information. It operates by providing a neutral forum and developing common protocols and reference code. The W3C is an industry consortium hosted by MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science and INRIA. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users; a reference code implementation to embody and promote protocols; and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. Membership is open to any organization. To date, the Consortium comprises more than 130 organizations. It can be found at http://www.w3.org .

Now in its third decade, MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) is dedicated to the invention, development and understanding of information technologies expected to drive substantial technical and socio-economic change. The LCS has helped information technology grow from a mere curiosity to 10 percent of the industrial world's economies by its pioneering efforts in interactive computing, computer networking, distributed systems and public key cryptography. LCS members and alumni have started some thirty companies and have pioneered the Nubus, the X-Window System, the RSA algorithm, the Ethernet and spreadsheets.

INRIA, the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control is a French public-sector scientific institute. INRIA is made up of five Research Units located at Rocquencourt (near Paris), Rennes, Sophia Antipolis, Nancy and Grenoble. The transfer of research results is one of INRIA's main assignments, in addition to its fundamental and applied research in information processing, control and scientific computation.

More information on W3C is available from: http://www.w3.org/

The CSS working draft is available from http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/TR/WD-css1

For background information on style sheets, see the resource page: http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Style