by Thomas Baker
The ERCIM workshop "Innovation and Research in Commercial Applications on the WWW" held in Darmstadt, Germany, 10 April 1995 at the Third International WWW Conference - with one hundred attendees more a lecture panel than a workshop - provided a showcase for ERCIM researchers and associated small businesses.
Michael Lenz of GMD set the overall context by presenting statistics on the growth of commercial Web use, summarizing the development of authentification and payment applications, and speculating on the importance of emerging standards.
Harald Schuetz of Deutsche Welle (DW) presented DW Internet, a Web offering with international news, program schedules, and links to English-language information on Germany from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Information Service. DW Internet keeps costs down by reusing material produced for radio and TV broadcast, and solicits e-mail feedback to better understand its readership.
Caj Sodergard of VTT reported on GT Online, a new online extension of a ten-year-old series of bulletins and special reports on graphic arts technology. GT Online favors paper-related formats (Postscript and Acrobat) that preserve the appearance of the document layout, and sees the Web primarily as a way to reach more readers in an organization and to distribute printed materials economically. Neither GT Online nor DW Internet find that their new online offerings have at all detracted from their traditional services.
According to Bertrand Melese of Grif SA in France, the two biggest types of commercial Web user are publishers of relatively static data in SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language) on CD-ROMs, who use the Web for updates; and companies with multiple locations, who use the Web to disseminate information and coordinate cooperative work. To support the latter, Grif produces multi-platform groupware for WYSIWYG editing of shared SGML documents on remote servers. Historically, Grif played an important role in building up the relationship between CERN and INRIA that led to INRIA's leadership of the European WebCore project and the International World-Wide Web Consortium.
To Lon Barfield of General Design in Amsterdam, authoring on the Web is not merely a question of correct HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). What is needed is good interface design - things such as help buttons, trails to keep people from getting lost in hyperspace, and markers to let users know how much of a Web corpus they have read. In a commercial environment, people will need to recognize unambiguously that they are placing an order.
Elias Manesiotis of CompuLink, an Internet service provider associated with ForthNet, outlined the growth of Web services in Greece.
Aside from the workshop, ERCIM was represented at the conference by an INRIA booth, and Steven Pemberton of CWI, chairman of the ERCIM World-Wide Web Working Group (W4G), organized a workshop on Human-Computer Interaction. The four-day conference was attended by roughly 1400 researchers, software developers, and businesspeople from about 40 countries.