Comment on HDML Submission

This text, dated July 1997, has been updated in March 1998. See update below.

This statement is a summary of the comments by the HTML coordination group on the HDML submission to the W3C.

The HDML specification will not become a W3C work item as it is. This work, while important and relevant, needs to be split, since it crosses the responsible areas of several W3C working groups.


The HDML proposal addresses the needs of handheld devices, and more specifically mobile phones. As more and more interest is shown for accessing the web from these devices, we are very pleased that HDML is submitted to W3C. Handheld devices have been mentioned for a while as one of the targets of HTML. The HDML submission is an opportunity to make this happen.

Scope of HDML

HDML covers various aspects of the web which are currently addressed by different W3C activities. It describes structured data, which relates it to W3C's XML work. It represents information to be presented on a display, which is also the goal of HTML and CSS. To carry data to and from an handheld device, it relies on a transmission protocol such as HTTP.

One aim of generic markup language such as HTML is to facilitate the representation of the same information on very different output devices. The definition of HDML as a format similar to but different from HTML runs counter to this need.

At the same time, HDML brings up new ideas, especially at the user interface level. It differs from the usual browser interface, as it is based on card-oriented transactions. It also brings new constraints, taking into account the limited capabilities of handheld devices regarding the display, available computing power and bandwidth. This makes HDML an exciting proposal.


During the review, some suggestions have been made that could help to improve the proposal. The submitters could consider adopting the XML syntax, which should be the basis for new W3C markup languages. It could be a way of making HDML more extensible. They could also consider the issue of internationalization, which is an important concern at W3C. A comparison with HTML and CSS could help to highlight the most important features of HDML. Finally, an evaluation on how the formatting capabilities of HDML could be represented in CSS would be useful.

Next steps

The HDML proposal has been handled so far by the HTML coordination group. Possible next steps might be any of:

  1. Participation in the HTML working group in order to ensure that those aspects of HTML which were found insufficient are discussed there.
  2. Extraction of those elements of HDML which specifically address the card-oriented (as opposed to scrolling page oriented) aspects of HDML, and submission of an XML-based specification based on addition to the existing HTML specification; or the creation of a briefing package for W3C members proposing to the HTML CG the creation of an HDML working group to do the same.
  3. Extraction of those elements of HDML which specifically address the low bandwidth aspects of HDML, and submission of specification based on addition/alternative to the upcoming HTTP-NG specification; or the creation of a briefing package for W3C members proposing the creation of an HDML working group to do the same.
  4. Preparation of a briefing package for the creation of an interest group for low bandwidth devices.

The issues addressed are topical and relevant, and it is hoped that the technology embodied in the submission can be rapidly developed in harmony with any other work which addresses the same issues.

Disclaimer: Placing a Submission on a Working Group agenda does not imply endorsement by either the W3C Staff or the participants of the Working Group, nor does it guarantee that the Working Group will agree to take any specific action on a Submission.

Vincent Quint, W3C staff
22 July 1997


Since the time it has been submitted and acknowledged by W3C (July 1997), the HDML specification has evolved. Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, and Unwired Planet have begun a separate effort to identify areas for standardization for wireless applications. The result of that cooperation was the formation of the Wireless Application Protocol Forum (WAP Forum). The WAP Forum has published a draft of the Wireless Markup Language (WML), a specification with its roots in HDML and published as an XML-based language.

W3C is also interested in mobile devices on the Web, and it organizes a workshop on that topic (7-8 April 1998, Tokyo). This workshop will be an opportunity for the WAP Forum and W3C members to discuss issues of common interest and to possibly propose new activities for W3C.

Vincent Quint
4 March 1998