2-2 Presentation of MOO & WOO environments

2-2.7 MOO and WWW together

The "World Wide Web" (WWW) is a distributed hypermedia system that runs over the Internet. In a hypertext, if you want more information about a particular subject mentioned, you can usually "just click on it" to read further details. WWW documents can be linked to other documents written by different authors, in various locations. To access the web, you run a browser program. The browser reads documents, and can fetch documents from other sources. Information providers set up hypermedia servers which browsers can get documents from. The browsers can, in addition, access files by FTP, NNTP (the Internet news protocol), gopher and an ever-increasing range of other methods. Finally, the browsers permit searches of documents and databases as well as a "fill-out form" interfaces for accessing any kind of external programs running on a server.

Current research involves integrating MOOs with audio, video, and shared programs. One of the best improvements have been made through the integration of WWW display to the MOO servers. The MOO then becomes the perfect sequencer for devices already available via WWW (sound files, videos, on-line texts and various programs) because of its spatial metaphor: one could actually talk to the people who are in the same room on the MOO and read the same WWW page containing the same links to the same documents. Applications would be shared by anyone looking at the same page (thus being in the same room), and changes could be made and seen by everyone. These tools have proved to be enormously useful when working on long documents or using images to illustrate any kind of idea.

As mentioned above, the WOO environment integrates two internet services: World Wide Web (WWW) and Multi-user Object Oriented Environments (MOO) creating the "WOO" label. The corresponding transaction protocol provides a means for MOO servers to serve HTML documents to WWW clients such as Netscape, and provides clients with the multi user and rich programming features of MOO combined with the rich content of the entire WWW. Anyone with a character on a WOO can publish its own WWW home page to the entire world, but also create dynamic objects that serve information on the WWW in an adaptive and flexible way.

Because the World-Wide Web can be considered as a knowledge integrator, a distributed hypertext, an interface to any kind of remote programs, an interface to certain local programs, and an interface to various communication tools (ftp, gopher, e-mail and news groups), it has very quickly become one of the most important frame of the Internet. Although it provides a great deal of support for publishing information and navigating through it, it does not provide as much support for Computer-Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW), where users can collectively write, annotate, and explore documents. This is why its advantages are so enhanced when MOO is associated with it.

Currently, WWW-MOO integration works best in the WWW->MOO direction, i.e. using the WWW for navigation, inspection and manipulation of MOO objects. For synchronous communication it is much more productive to use a regular MOO client. The current HTTP (WWW server protocol) does not allow to preserve state and therefore to maintain continued connection to a MOO server, e.g. since WWW pages have to be loaded by a user operation a WOO page will not automatically update itself when the state of the MOO has changed. (Workarounds like "Netscape's" server push exists but are not very effective). This situation however, may change in the near future when more sophisticated WWW clients (i.e. Netscape synchronous communication plug-ins) will be available.

VMDL/MOO Report - 17 FEB 1996

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