Data-layer Collaboration in Graphical and Text Authoring

SVG is one of the most important in a family of standards that will allow Internet-based communications to be much richer in the future than they have been thus far. Clearly, it will revolutionize the Web, making it much more efficient, interactive, easy to program to and device-scalable. SVG will be integrated into the core of devices as disparate as watches, phones, printers and high-end data visualization workstations. SVG has the following features that make it a strong communications technology:

The rise of the Internet has caused some important shifts in the software industry. The first wave of hype has passed but the undertow will still cause changes in the way that humans interact with computers and through computers with each other. The first wave was all about communication: humans talking to humans. But communications always happen in a context, and the communications technologies that make sense in the business-to-consumer publishing market, or the supply chain automation market are not necessarily appropriate for ad-hoc, real-time collaboration.

Collaboration is a more precise term than simply communication. When a group of knowledge workers collaborate, they have some particular shared goal in mind. Usually they are working together to produce some concrete deliverable. They tend to think of each other as peers. They are often strapped for time. They move fluidly from working separately, in parallel, to working together, in real-time. A collaboration tool is thus distinguished from a communication tool through its focus on goal-orientation.

SVG also has what it takes to be a key part of the collaboration toolbox:

This last point has important user interface implications. The current generation of collaboration software is organized around the sharing of documents and views, but not around collaboration on actual data. Consider Enterprise Instant Messaging. Yes, you can send messages, but what are you sending messages about? Usually it is some document (textual or graphical) under development. But where is that document represented in the interface? Next consider the various collaborative whiteboards out there. They are fine for high-level blue skying, but they are nowhere near appropriate for collaboration between graphic artists, architects or others for whom graphical quality and fidelity are key. In other words, SVG may be fine as an output for whiteboards, but how will we allow graphics professionals to collaborate on SVG data in environments that are powerful enough to support their needs?

To be widely useful, collaboration must be driven into the heart of every content creation application. Just as it is becoming common for applications to have the ability to read and write data directly to the Web, it must become possible for them to work directly in collaborative environment. This implies that the collaboration environment must either be a standard platform like the Web or, more likely, a standards-based extension to the Web. Standards are the only way to solve the current situation where people using one collaboration platform (e.g. Groove) cannot communicate with another one (e.g. NetMeeting). Furthermore, the data that is being collaboratively shared must be in standardized formats like SVG and XHTML or else people will be limited to collaborating with only people who use the same authoring application. This paper will describe the outlines of a standards-based collaboration platform and our integration of SVG into the platform. We also expect to demonstrate the applications at the conference.