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Subject: Re: Web Week: MHTML questions
From: Einar Stefferud <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Thu, 21 Aug 1997 12:48:41 -0700

text/plain (154 lines)

Hi Todd -

From your message Thu, 21 Aug 1997 11:57:53 -0400:
}Hi, Einar,
}I'm a writer for Web Week magazine. I know you're the chair on the MHTML
}working group, and I wanted to ask you a few questions:

It is rather unusual (and most often inapropriate) for an IETF WG
Chair to speak on the record to the press about activities of any WG.
In this case I think the news is good for the MHTML WG, the IETF, and
the Industry, but I still want this to be off the record.  You will
have to say that your sources are unidentified.

                        THIS IS OFF THE RECORD!

Participation in the MHTML WG has always been strong and positive
among all participants.  The discussions have been frank and open and
constructive at all times.  It has been a genuine pleasure for me to
work with all of the participants.  I believe all participants feel
the same way about it.

The need is obvious to all participants, for a standard that allows
all kinds of related WEB pages to be sent via Internet EMail (or FTP,
etc), as well as delivered via HTTP.  Its is like broadly recognizing
how important it is to be able to regularly send bound paper library
books through the mail, without having to reconstruct them to fit the
transport channel.  The WEB and EMail must coexist in the Internet in
much the same way that libraries and postal systems have co-existed
for centuries.  Neither will ever replace the other, as they serve
different information exchange paradigms (i.e., push vs pull) in very
different ways, and the world does not wish to impede the ability of
both modes to co-exist and to interwork with each other.

There is no good reason to require our User Applications to understand
all about different transport packaging and to construct application
information objects differently for different transports, when we can
so easily define a single (MIME based) tagging and bagging standard
for all varieties of transport of the same identical objects.  The end
objective is to be able to render all inter-application electronic
information object interchange to be as transport (i.e., pull vs push)
independent as paper based information object exchange is today.

Implementations appear to be underway by all the companies that have
been involved, and I believe all participants understand the
importance of broad interworking among all EMail and WEB products of
all developers who intend to construct, send, receive, interpret and
display compound WEB objects in MIME Multipart/Related packaging.
This whole effort is very nicely focused on helping all users to be
able to regularly and easily exchange compound WEB objects via EMAil
(and other means of transport).  The standards will also work for
compound objects transferred via HTTP if such transport happens to
occur between two application programs.

The MHTML WG was actually never declared INACTIVE, because it was
still working on an important INFORMATION document for Implementors,
to be published after the original Proposed Standards were published
as RFCs.  In the course of serious implementation efforts, a few
questions arose about some ambiguities, and errors were discovered in
several published examples.  Resolution of the ambiguities and fixes
for the examples were considered serious enough to warrant a quick
recycling of the Proposed Standards documents to make sure that
implementors are all working from the same clear understanding.

So, new Internet-Drafts are in preparation, along with revisions of
the INFORMATION Document, and a new IETF Last Call is planned for
October, to complete the recycling.

This means that progression from Proposed to Draft will not occur
until at least 6 months after the recycled Proposed Standards are
published, but we do not see anything critical about the timing of the
progression to Draft Standard.  What is most important is that all
implementors be given correct unambiguous specifications to facilitate
early interworkable products.  This will best facilitate broad
deployment of interworking products by all concerned developers.

Progression to draft standard status is only useful or even possible
after interworkability is proven among at least two independent
implementations.  In the MHTML case, we see many more than 2
independent implementations in progress (though we do not have
reportable documentation in hand) so the process of evaluating
interworkability is going to be interesting, to say the least.  The WG
is planning to start the process of collecting information and
evaluating interworkability right after publishing the recycled
Proposed Standard RFCs.  Our first priority is the get the recycled
specifications published.

Perhaps the WG will never get to enjoy an inactive period.  MHTML WG
is planning to meet at the December meeting in Washington to begin the
process of interworkability evaluation and deal with any problems that
may arise.

Now, with all that for context, here are direct answers (or evasions)
to your direct questions.

}* What's the current status of the MHTML specification?

See above...

}* The WG was supposed to be "inactive" during the vendor-implementation
}period. What were the problems that required further work from the group in
}Munich? What was accomplished there?

See above...

}* What's the current status of implementation by the vendors?  Who, that you
}are aware of, is working on implementing the MHTML spec (besides Microsoft,
}Netscape, and Eudora)?

I (we, the WG) actually do not know the status of various developers,
Or even who they all are, though we are aware of a broad number of
implementations being underway.  We had 28 or so participants in
Munich, which strongly suggests that a lot more than 3 or 4 vendors
are developing products.  The attendance list is probably available on
the <> web pages.

}* What were the main differences in HTML formatting/handling among
}Microsoft, Netscape, and Eudora e-mail clients prior to the MHTML proposed

This information is (hopefully) lost in antiquity, and is at this
point quite irrelevant;-)...  This little corner of the industry is
cooperating beautifully in proper Internet style, within the unstated
parameters of my favorite Internet motto for the 1990's:

        "We work together better, with everyone, than anyone!"

This is the Internet marketing battle cry which will mark the end of
the 20th century, and the beginning of the next;-)...  It was in the
20th Century Internet that we will have learned this lesson.


}Thanks in advance for your help with this project.
}Todd Spangler
}Associate Editor, Infrastructure
}Web Week
}"The Newspaper of Web Technology and Business Strategy"
[log in to unmask]
}Phone:         212-547-1825
}Fax:   212-949-8981

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