HTML, CGI and inlining

Linas Vepstas (
Wed, 4 Jan 95 23:16:26 EST

This post concerns the generation of html from cgi programs,
and any standards/tools pertaining thereto.

If you've ever tried to write a CGI program, in, say C/C++,
you promptly run into the problem having potentially significant
amounts of html text buried in your C/C++ code. This is bad,
for a number of reasons:

-- lack of modularity
-- changing style requires recompiling your C program.
-- you can't easily hand over your C code to an "artistic"
type, and tell them "hey make this pretty/stylish".

Doing so risks getting your code corrupted by somone
who doesn't know C, and/or modifications to your C code
you would not approve of (subtle bugs, malicious changes, etc.)

I've developed a mini-extension to html to handle this.
I am writing this note to ask if anyone else has done anything
similar, if there have been any previous discussions of this sort,
if anyone has code, etc.

Technically, this extension is no longer html, since (at this time)
you would not want to send this to an html viewer (you may in the
future; could be useful for MUD's MOO's VRML, etc. -- but not now).
The idea is for an "anti-form" or "template" that a filter program
would parse, generating final, real HTML. The syntax is reminiscent
forms, except that the forms or "templates" are filled out automatically
by the filter program, rather than a human.

So, for example, consider the following example of "HTTL" (hypertext
template language):

<b> The time is now <template name="time">. Do you know where
your parents are? </b>

The HTTL-to-HTML filter program parses this, recognizes the keyword "time"
and substitues for it, generating the following valid html:

<b> The time is now 9:52. Dou you know where your parents are? </b>

How the filter handles keywords is entirely up to the person writing
the filter. There are no predefined keywords.

In short, that's it, that's the idea. I have some further ideas on this,
but let me keep this breif. (e.g. you may want to specify a "context" or
"database" that indicates to the filter where to look for keys or how
to treat them. Another intersting application is having the key's be
URL's -- this becomes a mechanism for in-lining html. And keyes that
themselves specify other cgi programs that generate in-lined html .. hmmm.
In the distant future, you may want viewers to support HTTL, as this could
help with caching, be a mechanism for transmitting/broadcasting minimal
update info in the same way that DIS (a 3D defense industry battlefield
simulaion protocol) is used by the military broadcast minimal updates.
But that's for later.)

Please reply directly to I do not subscribe to some of
these mailing lists, although I can be pressured into doing so.

-- linas
Linas Vepstas