Surge helps BT build interactive Web apps

British Telecom's advanced research and technology business, BTexact Technologies, has agreed to use Curl Corp.'s Surge software platform to prototype commercial applications for BT customers.

Surge is the first commercial product to emerge from the Curl research project, an undertaking of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Laboratory for Computer Science. The so-called 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.

BTexact has already used Surge 1.0 to develop prototypes of interactive, extensible Web applets and applications, including an image processing technology that produces a "visual attention map" that identifies the parts of an image that are "interesting to the human visual system," the company said. BTexact is still finding applications for this visual attention technique. According to company CEO Stewart Davies, the technology can be used in a variety of applications, ranging from the auto-focus function in a camera, to detecting manufacturing defects, to finding differences in a series of items.

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," says Robert A. Young, chairman and CEO of Curl Corporation, accessible to content creators at skill levels ranging from authors new to the Web to experienced programmers.

Young said an applet written in the Curl Content Language can be 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.

Under the direction of Professor Steve Ward, the Curl project 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. BTexact Technologies was established in April to "offer expertise and experience in communications technology and e-business."

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About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].