Web page weaving made easy


ASSEMBLING a page of information for the World Wide Web or a company intranet is not difficult. In fact, it's getting easier, with new applications that allow every employee to contribute to a company intranet.

These are Web page generators, programs that automatically build a Web page using information supplied by the user. Designed for people from any technical background, they seldom require anything more complex than filling out an online form. An example is Ireland On Line and its Business Park, aimed at small businesses without resources to construct their own home pages. By filling out a simple form they create a "bare bones" Web page, giving them a foothold Web presence. It's little more than a month old and proving very popular.

Internet Business Ireland created the WebManager software in the Business Park, and managing director Fred Crowe says convenience as much as low cost has made the service popular. "For a small company with little computer expertise, creating a Web page can be a daunting task. When they see how easy this process is a lot of them are relieved.

"It's a question of what's good for the customer. If he wants a basic serviceable Web site then that's fine, but to create a large, complex Web site you really need a professional developer," Crowe says.

He still sees a wide range of applications for this family of tools. A simple scenario is where they would be used to give every employee on a corporate intranet their own home page, containing some brief information on their position in the company, experience and skills.

"Really," says Crowe "the list of applications is almost endless".

Microsoft and Netscape offer a similar service, allowing visitors to their home pages to create a "virtual Web page" to view their sites. After filling out a form the visitor's favourite on site links and selected off site links are combined in a "personal" Web page.

However, the technology used for these pages is not problem free. Since the pages don't exist on disk they are reconstructed on connecting to the company server by information fed to it by your browser.

Netscape utilises Java, Sun's popular new language to do this. Microsoft uses "cookies", local variables manipulated by your browser. Critics say the information could be intercepted en route to the server by a third party. Both companies have introduced new security features to counteract this, but so far the industry is not completely convinced. But despite this, both sites offer good examples of what can be done with this new technology and, of course, a little bit of imagination.