World Wide Web Consortium Publishes XForms 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation

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W3C's Next-Generation Forms Technology Ready to Use

Testimonials — 14 October 2003 — The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announces the release of the XForms 1.0 Recommendation. XForms 1.0 is the foundation for next-generation Web-based forms, combining the ability to separate purpose, presentation, and results with the Extensible Markup Language (XML).

A W3C Recommendation is the equivalent of a Web standard, indicating that this W3C-developed specification is stable, contributes to Web interoperability, and has been reviewed by the W3C Membership, who favor its adoption by the industry.

After 10 Years, It's Time to Upgrade Forms on the Web

When HTML forms were introduced to the Web in 1993, they provided a means to gather information and perform transactions. The structure of forms served the needs of many users at that time, as well as the devices used to access the Web.

Now, 10 years later, the original HTML form design is showing its limitations. Users now wish to access the Web through cell phones, handheld devices, and assistive technologies such as screen readers, and authors need more functionality based on their experience with HTML forms and non-Web-based forms technologies. Forms authors are looking to both minimize scripting and maximize reuse of form components, as well as cleanly separate the purpose, presentation and results of a form. And of course, companies which have made the move to XML are looking for ways to integrate forms into their business processes.

"W3C's XForms gives authors more power and flexibility while improving the user experience," explained Steven Pemberton, Chair of the W3C XForms Working Group. "The XForms Working Group has provided a model that makes it easy for implementors to develop and reuse form components, integrate them into Web services, and deliver functionality to users and devices previously not possible."

XForms Cleanly Separates Purpose, Presentation, and Results

In contrast to HTML forms, in which functional and presentation markup are intertwined, XForms lets forms authors distinguish the descriptions of the purpose of the form; the presentation of the form, and how the results (the instance data) are written in XML.

By splitting traditional HTML forms into three parts—XForms model, instance data, and the XForms user interface—XForms cleanly separates presentation from content. This separation brings new advantages:

  • Reuse: XForms modules can be reused independently of the information they collect
  • Device independence: user interface controls are abstract—that is, their generic features are the only thing indicated—so they can easily be delivered to different devices with different capabilities
  • Accessibility: separation of presentation from content leaves information more readily available for users of assistive technologies; in addition, the user interface controls encapsulate all relevant metadata such as labels, thereby enhancing accessibility of the application when using different modalities.

Practically speaking, XForms technologies make it possible to deliver the same form to a PDA, a cell phone, screen reader or conventional desktop machine—without loss of functionality for the end user.

XForms Aids the Author and Improves the User Experience

XForms allows authors to specify properties of, and relationships between, values being collected, for instance that a particular field must be an email address, that the total amount field is the sum of the individual line items, or that the credit card number isn't required if payment is by cash. These are specified using simple properties such as saying a field is 'required', or by giving the type of the field, rather than using the extensive scripting that was necessary in traditional HTML forms.

This means that the user experience is greatly improved, since the browser can always warn the user of any incorrectly filled fields before the form is submitted.

XForms Delivers the Power of XML to Online Forms

XML is at the core of the XForms model, and delivers key advantages to the XForms technology:

  • Data received from an XForm is already strongly typed, well-formed, easy to validate, and process—in other words, it is XML.
  • Using XML 1.0 for the description of results—called 'instance data'—ensures that the submitted data may be easily internationalized.
  • XForms may be used to 'edit' any XML document.
  • Existing XML schemas from business processes may easily be used for the validation of instance data.
  • XML schemas may be reused across XForms, helping keep sets of forms up to date and consistent.
  • XForms can talk to Web services, finally integrating the user into the Web services process.

Moreover, XForms, while initially designed to be integrated into XHTML, may be adopted by any suitable markup language, such as Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). XForms uses XML Events, another W3C technology being released today, to define XML-based declarative event handlers that cover common use cases, so that the majority of XForms documents can be statically analyzed, reducing the need for complicated scripting for event handlers.

XForms Already Widely Implemented

No W3C specification has been so widely implemented so early in its life cycle as XForms. Current implementations can deliver the same form to a variety of devices, including cell phones, PDAs, voice browsers, PCs, and even using instant messenger clients. Some large user communities are emerging, in particular the United Kingdom e-government interoperability framework says "current guidance is to use the XForms 1.0 standards as defined by W3C" (page 14 of this document).

XForms Basic, the mobile profile of XForms which allows XForms to be implemented natively on mobile devices, is currently a W3C Candidate Recommendation. It is expected to become a Recommendation when an mobile implementation passes the XForms test suite.

XForms Working Group Includes Industry Leaders

In the competitive field of forms technology, it's almost unheard of to have so many leading participants working together on the development of a standardized technology to be used by all. The W3C XForms Working Group serves as the place where these technology and industry leaders meet to produce results that have immediate use on the Web today. The XForms Working Group includes W3C Members and invited experts from Adobe; CWI; Cardiff; Helsinki University of Technology; IBM; Mozquito Technologies; Novell; Oracle Corporation; Origo Services; PureEdge; SAP; Sun Microsystems; and Ltd.

About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]

The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability. It is an international industry consortium jointly run by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France, and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users, and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date, nearly 400 organizations are Members of the Consortium. For more information see


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Testimonials for W3C's XForms 1.0 Recommendation

CWI | Cardiff Software | Chibacon | HUT | IBM | Mozquito | Novell | Origo Services | PureEdge Solutions | SAP | Sun Microsystems | U.S. CIO Council |


As the first non-military Internet site in Europe, CWI has always striven to be at the forefront of Internet technology, and our involvement with HTML, CSS, XHTML, SMIL and XForms is part of that aim. We see the release of XForms 1.0 as one of the most important developments on the Web, offering as it does advantages for both users and machines, by improving the user experience on the one hand, and by integrating XML and forms on the other.

-- Jan Karel Lenstra, General Director, CWI (the Dutch National Research Institute for Mathematics and Informatics)

Cardiff Software

Cardiff has always been a supporter of open standards, so we're very pleased to see XForms 1.0 reach the milestone of W3C Recommendation. As it stands, the specification is an excellent balance of power and simplicity, and it provides a compelling alternative to less open approaches.

-- Micah Dubinko, Chief XML Architect, Cardiff Software Inc.


Chibacon is pleased that the XForms specification has been approved as a W3C Recommendation and congratulates the Working Group for their excellent work. It's our belief that XForms has the potential to become one of the most important XML languages especially for the advancement of lighweight client technologies and the evolution of the World Wide Web. The Chiba project offers a free and open source Java implementation which may be integrated in a variety of architectures. Our server-side approach allows to use XForms right away without the need of specialized browsers. Chibacon provides expertise to put XForms/Chiba into practice and is proud to take part in the development of this exciting new technology.

-- Joern Turner, Chief Executive Officer, Chibacon


XForms 1.0 getting a recommendation status is an extremely important step for the future of the Web. XForms ties together the XML data, logic and presentation in a well-defined layered manner. We believe that while the XForms recommendation will benefit everybody, the end user will benefit the most from the enhanced form filling experience. HUT has participated in the XForms working group for more than 2 years and has produced one of the first full XForms implementations in the X-Smiles XML browser, and will continue to support XForms also in the future.

-- Professor Petri Vuorimaa, Head of TML laboratory, Helsinki University of Technology, Finland


XForms --- XML Powered Web Forms --- is key to ensuring that electronic Web transactions can be carried out in an open, interoperable manner. As one of the editors of the XForms specification, IBM is very pleased to see XForms become a W3C Recommendation. XForms brings the power of XML to HTML forms. It builds on the success of HTML Forms to changed how companies and individuals do business on the Web. XForms is key to realizing the vision of a future where people can access information online on any device--and do everything from shopping and banking to checking their e-mail or calendar. Using XForms, customers can ensure increased accessibility of electronic web transactions. The XForms Recommendation is an important step toward establishing a true electronic forms standard, which IBM supports as a necessity for cross-industry interoperability.

-- Rod Smith, IBM Fellow, VP of Emerging Technologies, IBM


As a founding member of the XForms Working Group, Mozquito is pleased to see the completion of XForms as a W3C Recommendation. We believe that XForms is the most significant web technology ever since HTML and XML itself. XForms allows for a truly interactive, bi-directional Web of Applications, boosting structured interchange of information world-wide. This infrastructure standard significantly lowers development costs and total cost of ownership across all vertical, service and application-oriented web products - from e-commerce to e-goverment, e-finance to personal web communication. Mozquito is honoured to have helped the W3C in its development on XForms both thru a series of XForms implementations at various stages of the specification as well as by serving as co-chair of the Working Group. Mozquito DENG is Mozquito's latest, zero-install, browser-based XForms implementation based on experience from years of XForms deployment in mission-critical web applications.

-- Sebastian Schnitzenbaumer, Founder, Mozquito


The release of the XForms 1.0 Recommendation is a significant milestone in the development of rich Web applications. XForms is the ideal front-end technology to Web Services and a crucial part of Novell's strategy for enabling rapid development and deployment of sophisticated Services-oriented applications. With Novell exteNd 5, currently in beta, we deliver drag-and-drop tools based on XForms that dramatically reduce coding effort and enable developers at all skill levels to visually create business critical applications. Novell's commitment to XForms is evident from the use of XForms as a key part of exteNd's architecture and our active participation in the XForms Working Group in defining such a landmark Web standard.

-- David Litwack, Senior Vice President, Novell's Web Services platform

Origo Services

To fully implement e-commerce in the financial services marketplace, it is vital to have open, heavyweight forms technology that supports complex use cases, such as those we have when applying for financial products. In anticipation of the widespread adoption of Forms technology, Origo started to evaluate the available solutions, such as DHTML+Script and various proprietary solutions, five years ago. None of these solutions met our most important requirements: separation of presentation and content, modular development, re-use of existing XML assets, distributed business rules, write once deploy anywhere; so we took the step of developing an in-house forms mark-up language. This was an unusual step for a "user community", but clearly demonstrates the fundamental need for such a technology in the financial services industry. Origo's intention has always been to migrate to an open standard as soon as one became available. Over the years we've watched XForms develop with interest and have become actively involved over the last 12 months. We are confident that XForms is the open standard that we, and many other verticals, have been waiting for.

-- Paul Pettitt, Managing Director, Origo Services Limited

PureEdge Solutions

As a founding member of the W3C's XForms Working Group, PureEdge Solutions is pleased that XForms 1.0 has become a W3C Recommendation, and we're honored to have co-authored XForms 1.0. PureEdge was the first to develop a secure and dynamic XML forms language, named XFDL, which has historically helped to shape open standards related to XML Forms and Digital Signatures in XML.
XForms 1.0 provides a standard for representing an XML form's baseline functionality that will become foundational to the delivery of next generation Web applications and business process automation systems. By transforming XFDL into a host language for XForms, PureEdge will be able to combine the interoperability and standardized behaviors of XForms with the sophisticated processing capabilities and security features of XFDL. PureEdge looks forward to the widespread adoption of XForms 1.0 and to taking a lead role in future versions of XForms.

-- John M. Boyer, Ph.D., Senior Product Architect/Research Scientist, PureEdge Solutions Inc.


SAP congratulates the W3C on the maturation of XForms 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation. SAP welcomes the potential help Xforms will provide the enterprise developer by designating a clear separation between layout and content. Reducing the need for traditional scripting will allow a more modular development of Web applications, resulting in a more interactive user experience. This is in line with SAP's strategy for model driven user interface development. SAP continues to actively collaborate with the W3C membership on the future development of XForms.

-- Franz Josef Fritz, Vice President of Open Standards, SAP

Sun Microsystems

Sun Microsystems welcomes the approval of XForms as a W3C Recommendation. We believe that W3C XForms will take an important role in realizing Sun's vision of open XML standards for a heterogeneous web of devices ranging from cell phones and PDAs to modern desktops. XForms is an enabling technology for replacing paper-based form work-flows with open, web-service based electronic forms solutions, and is poised to become the premier means for structured XML data entry. To continue Sun's strategy of empowering customers through open desktop and server solutions, future versions of StarOfficeTM software aim to support XForms based XML data entry. Supporting XForms will enhance StarOffice software's lead role in bringing open XML formats to the corporate desktop.

-- Curtis Sasaki, VP of Engineering, Desktop Solutions, Sun Microsystems, Inc.

U.S. CIO Council

In light of the October 2003 deadline for U.S. Federal Agencies to comply with the mandate of the Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA) to give citizens the opportunity to provide information online, the maturation of XForms as a W3C Recommendation comes none too soon. It has been suggested that XForms provides the 'last mile [in] connecting users to their data' and it has been observed that 'the document is the [human] interface' to data. Unless the latter point is understood and until the former point is realized in working applications, the challenge to make eGov services 'citizen-centered' simply cannot and will not be met.

-- Owen Ambur Cofounder & Co-chair XML Working Group, U.S. CIO Council

A small number of far-sighted people have spent over four years working hard on the XForms standard, and it is great to see their vision come to fruition. x-port are pleased to have been involved in the standard and are proud of the contribution that our software, formsPlayer, has made to the standard's progress. We believe that not only will web forms never be the same again, but applications too; XForms makes possible a whole new generation of rich-client applications that will take the internet to a completely new level.

-- Mark Birbeck, CEO and CTO, Ltd.

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