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Curling up with Hot Technology Transfer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass—It's not enough these days for college professors to while away their tenured hours in ivory towers. What university presidents want is "technology transfer," that often elusive conjunction of pure science and filthy commerce. No one can accuse the folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Laboratory for Computer Science of loafing in their lab coats. Under the direction of Professor Steve Ward, the Curl research project has just produced its first commercial release: the Curl Surge 1.0 software environment.

The Curl project has some big names attached to it. It was instigated by local business leaders and such MIT luminaries as World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee and Dr. Michael L. Dertouzos, Director of the MIT computer lab. According to Robert A. Young, chairman and CEO of the newly founded Curl Corporation, Curl's technology is "the future of the Web."

"With it," Young said, "organizations can reap tremendous financial benefits by harnessing the power of client-side computing, reducing the size and volume of downloads, and integrating the fragmented development technologies of the Web into a seamless whole. For users, Curl technology delivers the fast, rich, highly interactive Web experience that has only been a promise until now."

Specifically, Curl is a new language for creating Web documents with almost any sort of content, from simple formatted text to complex interactive applets. The Curl Content Language was designed specifically for use on the Web. It integrates mark-up functionality, scripting functionality, and a full-featured, object-oriented programming language—all within one environment. Curl technology can be used with existing Web technologies, such as HTML, CGI, and JavaScript, and with multimedia animation tools, or it can be used in place of them. Curl is intended to be a "gentle slope system," Young said, accessible to content creators at skill levels ranging from authors new to the Web to experienced programmers, said.

According to Young, an applet written in the Curl Content Language is delivered by a server, like most Web content, but "lives" on the client and works well when embedded within an HTML page or when it replaces the HTML page altogether. The applet can "talk" to any server-side technology, such as a CGI script or JSP/ASP, with no modification to the server. Because JavaScript is usually embedded into an HTML document, the Curl Content Language can complement or completely replace JavaScript on the client, providing the interactivity and integrated dynamic content that the Web developer needs.

The Curl Surge product, now available for download from the company Web site, is a browser plug-in for viewing Curl content. The beta 3 of Curl Surge Lab, a developer environment for creating Curl content, is also available for download.

For a brief overview of Curl and its underlying philosophy, point your browser to http://www.cag.lcs.mit.edu/curl/. Or check out the Curl Corp site at http://www.curl.com/html/.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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