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ViolaWWW

From Academic Kids

ViolaWWW was one of the first graphically-based web browsers. Created by Pei-Yuan Wei in 1993, it was the first browser to use authoring technology such as embedded scriptable objects, stylesheets, and tables.

It was based on the Viola toolkit, which is a tool for the development and support of visual interactive media applications, with a multimedia web browser being a possible application. Viola ran under the X-Windows environment and could be used to build complex hypermedia applications that were beyond HTML 3.0 (the latest version of HTML at that time).

Ahead of its time

Viola was interesting because it was the first web browser to have the following features:

  • client-side document insertion, predating frames which are used commonly today.
Viola-style document embedding Object method
<INSERT SRC="a_quote.html">
<object type="text/html" data="a_quote.html">
<p>This text will appear 
for browsers that don't 
support OBJECTs</p>
</object>
  • a simple stylesheet mechanism used for inserting style information such as fonts, color and alignments into a document. This was implemented in Viola well before CSS was developed in 1998:
A viola-style stylesheet A CSS stylesheet
 (BODY,INPUT,P   FGColor=black 
                 BGColor=grey70 
                 BDColor=grey70 
                 align=left

 (H1             FGColor=white 
                 BGColor=red 
                 BDColor=black 
                 align=center 



 body, input, p { 
  color: black;
  background-color: #707070;
  text-align: left;
}

 h1 {
  color: white;
  background-color: red;
  border: solid 1px black;
  text-align: center;
}
  • a sidebar panel used for displaying "meta" information, intra document navigational links, and other information, similar to (but not as sophisticated as) Mozilla Firefox's "Page Info" feature.
  • a scripting language that can be accessed from an HTML document, such that an HTML document can embed highly interactive scripts/applets. This can be seen as the precursor to JavaScript and embedded objects.


ViolaWWW method JavaScript equivalent
Scripting
\class {txtDisp} 
\name {showTime} 
\script { switch (arg[0]) { 
  case "tick": 
    set("content"), date()); 
    after(1000, self(), "tick"); 
    return; break; 
  case "init": 
    after(1000, self(), "tick"); 
    break; 
  } 
  usual(); 
} 
\width {100} 
\height {50} \
function showTimeInDoc() {
  var theTime = 
   document.
    getElementById('theTime');
  var tDate = new Date();
  theTime.innerHTML= 
   tDate.getHours() 
   + ":" + tDate.getMinutes() 
   + ":" + tDate.getSeconds();
  setTimeout("showTimeInDoc()", 
   1000);
}
Embedding a script into a web page
<HTML> 
<HEAD>
</HEAD>
<BODY>
<P>And, the time now is: 
<LINK REL="viola" 
HREF="showTime.v"> 
</BODY>
</HTML>

<html>
  <head>
  <script type="text/javascript" 
    src="showTime.js">
  </script>
  </head>
  <body onload="showTimeInDoc()">
    <p id="theTime"> </p>
  </body>
</html>

Microsoft v. Eolas and ViolaWWW prior art

Because of ViolaWWW, Microsoft received a retrial on February, 2005, in the Microsoft v. Eolas case which could have cost software giant Microsoft $521m in damages. Eolas Technologies and the University of California sued Microsoft for allegedly infringing patents with the Internet Explorer web browser. The case revolved around a patent held by Eolas and the University which claims to cover ways of making other software work seamlessly with web browsers.

Microsoft had wanted to show the court ViolaWWW as prior art, since it was created in 1993 at the University of California, a year before the patent was filed. Microsoft had also suggested that Mike Doyle, the founder of Eolas' and a former University of California researcher, had intentionally concealed his knowledge of ViolaWWW when filing the patent claim.

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