Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

Summary: Must a traditional Web browser be the primary way to interact with and navigate a Web application? Microsoft researchers think the answer is no.

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TOPICS: Browser, Microsoft
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Must a traditional Web browser be the primary way to interact with and navigate a Web application?

Microsoft researchers think the answer is no. They are building another option -- 'C3,' an extensible platform for HTML-based applications. Along with University of Washington researchers, Microsoft researchers will show off C3 at the WebApps'11 conference this June in Portland, Oreg.

(C3 may stand for "cloud computing client," one of my contacts said.)

Word of the existence of C3 emerged last November when researchers posted a technical paper, entitled "Verified Security for Browser Extensions." That paper made mention of C3, which researchers called "a new platform for HTML5 experimentation developed entirely in a type-safe, managed language," specifically C#. (They also subsequently referred to C3 in that paper as "a research Web browser.")

There's a bit more information available now about C3 (though the full WebApps'11 paper on it is not yet available). From one of the University of Washington researcher's description:

"We present C3, an implementation of the HTML/JS/CSS platform designed for web client research and experimentation. C3 introduces novel extension points and generalizes existing ones, creating simpler and more powerful opportunities for customization. In addition, C3’s typesafe, modular architecture lowers the barrier to web and browser research. We discuss and evaluate C3’s design decisions for flexibility, and provide examples for various extensions that we and others have built."

And from a UW Engineering Web page on the project:

"Nothing inherently confines webapps to a browser’s page- navigation idiom, and browsers can do far more than merely render content."

The C3 team, which includes on the Microsoft side Wolfram Schute and Herman Venter, have done a lot of work around the concept of extensions, it seems. That leads me to wonder whether C3 is somehow connected to another Microsoft Research project, known as Xax.

"Xax is a browser plugin model that enables developers to leverage existing tools, libraries, and entire programs to deliver feature-rich applications on the web," according to the Microsoft Research web page about the project. "Xax employs a novel combination of mechanisms that collectively provide security, OS-independence, performance, and support for legacy code."

Microsoft Researchers are working on other browser- and HTML-app-centric projects, as well, including the ServiceOS/Verve one about which I've blogged previously.

Update: If you want to understand Microsoft's obsession on plug-ins, the just-posted blog entry from the Internet Explorer team on add-ons and IE 9 reliability is worth a read.

Topics: Browser, Microsoft

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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45 comments
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  • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

    Most of whats written here goes over my head, but is all this related to Hotmail Wave 5 / HTML 5?
    bartw78
    • Not about immediate products

      Hi. Doubtful. This is a MSR project, meaning it may or may not ever be commercialized. I would think it would be later than 2012/13 that anything C3-related comes to market... MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

        @Mary Jo Foley If they do not hurry, when they launch it they will be way behind competition.<br><a href="http://www.ofertareonline.ro/ferestre-termopan.html">Termopan</a>
        termopane
    • Do teams @ MSFT talk to each other?

      What a farce. They already have a product far better than C3, and it's called SilverLight.
      LBiege
      • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

        @LBiege

        <pre>if(Silverlight == HTML5)
        {
        ThenTryToWriteHTMLCodeInsteadOfXAMLForSilverlight();
        }</pre>
        Grayson Peddie
    • Ask Loverock Davidson he knows everything about M$ :-)

      @bartw78 good luck with what he tells you...........
      Over and Out
    • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

      @bartw78
      HTML 5 means HyperText Markup Language version 5, not Hotmail Wave 5. :-)
      I hope I understood your question right because it seems no one else got it.
      fifidonkor@...
    • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

      @bartw78 yes you right that a written about all this related to Hotmail Wave 5 / HTML 5. <a href="http://www.paperprofs.com/writing-types/essay/">essays</a> | <a href="http://www.paperprofs.com/writing-types/term-paper/">term papers</a> | <a href="http://www.paperprofs.com/writing-types/research-papers/">research papers</a>
      andrewroy
  • Way to shoot your own foot off ...

    ... with a rocket launcher! I don't understand how there are forces at MS, hell bent on undermining the company's own money generating platforms. Why doesn't MS collaborate with Apple to make iOS and Mac OS more competitive with Windows instead? These guys can pat themselves on the back for being fair and open, as the value of MS products sink like the Titanic. I just don't get it! I really just don't get it!

    A bunch of these guys say that MS' customers want it. Duh! If you do not provide more compelling proprietary solutions, of course they are going to want it! If MS customers started demanding special extensions to Oracle DB, because SQL Server doesn't offer a certain popular line of functionality, would MS oblige its customers, or develop SQL server along the lines its customers are interested in, to re-enforce SQL server's appeal, and re-establish its value? All these browser advocates at MS, do you really think MS doesn't have a problem, when its customers are asking for non-MS solutions over MS solutions? MS should be infusing virtualization and other technologies into MS platforms and solutions, to address customer needs - systematically developing ever more compelling solutions, than those provided by the web.

    While the Internet may be MS' friend, the web is inherently its enemy. The web is a platform that competes with Windows, and its prominence comes at the expense of Windows - and vice versa. MS should not be trailblazing web standards or web technologies. It should at the most be making decent browsers, and creating an ever expanding user experience differential between its own technologies, and the browser - much like Apple. If Google, Mozilla, et al want to develop the browser to new heights, let them. That should not be MS' affair. Let those who primarily depend on the browser take care of the browser, and let those who benefit from competing against the browser, do so by developing their own, ever more compelling solutions.

    I think the project referred in the article should be scrapped. Developers in MS' ecosystem have never been more excited, since the re-invention of MS' own platforms (in particular, WP7) - as opposed to the web.
    P. Douglas
    • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

      @P. Douglas
      I think Microsoft wants to sell licenses for its server products and licenses to client system users. Developing the arts and sciences and beating the grad students to the concepts is a good step to having an earlier implementation and being to market first.

      They weren't doing this in search 12 years ago, and the grad students whomped Microsoft but good.
      DannyO_0x98
      • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

        @DannyO_0x98 yes i have also said that microsoft have to sell licenses for its server products and licenses to client system users. <a href="http://www.paperprofs.com/writing-types/assignment/">Assignments</a> | <a href="http://www.paperprofs.com/writing-types/dissertation/">Dissertation Writing</a>
        andrewroy
    • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

      @P. Douglas

      I think you are using a straw man argument here. Microsoft is not "competing against the browser" but increasing fidelity of the web experience with their existing platform.

      Unlike Apple, Microsoft has an install base of over one billion devices. Apple has the luxury of retooling its operating system and starting from scratch as it did with -- essentially - Leopard and iOS.

      Microsoft lives in a world where it needs to meets its existing customer base and support their needs in the 21st Century. Microsoft has no choice but to not only create a leading browser, but integrate its cloud offerings with its on-premise offerings.
      Your Non Advocate
      • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

        @facebook@...

        I appreciate that MS must accommodate its customers' requests regarding coming out with tools for the browser. But MS should at the same time be developing Windows based technologies, that usurp the appeal of the browser, and make users increasingly opt for Windows based solutions over browser based solutions. This is precisely what Apple did - driving development back to traditional Operating Systems - and now the company is making money hand over fist.

        MS managers should be cringing every time they hear customers asking for browser based solutions over Windows based solutions - because this defocuses Windows, and reduces mindshare and development against the platform. Instead, there appears to be this LSD induced type, "All we need is love" vibe going at the company, where people think that the company can support every and all platforms, and everything will be all right. I wish these guys would just snap out of it.
        P. Douglas
      • Message has been deleted.

        GoPower
    • Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based appli

      @P. Douglas, this C3 project is a mean of hijacking the web by MS. other ways employed by MS are suing everyone using android. can't you it?
      oldtechdudze
      • Yup.

        @oldtechdudze EXACTLY.
        thombone
    • Clearly you don' get it...and its looking like you never will. Heres why..

      @P. Douglas
      "These guys can pat themselves on the back for being fair and open, as the value of MS products sink like the Titanic. I just don't get it! I really just don't get it!"

      Ha! There it is! You seem to be thinking that the value of MS products is sinking like the Titanic!


      Problem solved! Your dead wrong!
      Cayble
    • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

      @P. Douglas

      Thoughtful post, but the web is a tool, not a product, therefore it can't compete with Windows. Plus, the browser stinks as an application host, so if C3 can come up with a strong alternative then LOB developers will be thankful. But the few strengths of the browser are still quite desirable. An effort has been ongoing for years to bring bits of web-like navigation, discover-ability, and layout ease to native Windows application development, so it's clear that there's a market for something better. Something integrated and modular, so that I can accomplish the basics via my browser at home, or on the plane when disconnected, or share with others using my phone, but everything I can achieve from a native application on the corporate network comes into play when I'm in the office.
      scH4MMER
  • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

    Do you think is there any relation to BG's mystery startup bgC3?
    phankhanhhung@...
  • RE: Beyond the browser: Microsoft's 'C3' next-gen platform for HTML-based applications

    Maybe a citation as to the meaning of type safety would be useful here. From wikipedia:<br><br>"In computer science, type safety is the extent to which a programming language discourages or prevents type errors. A type error is erroneous or undesirable program behaviour caused by a discrepancy between differing data types."<br><br>C# isn't type-safe: that sounds more to be up F#'s alley. (Though C# has progressed since its introduction and the MSR's work with functional programming languages has been an important source for these structural changes. C# could be made type-safe, but it would present a backwards compatibility issue.)<br><br>The server is another computer on the network. "HTML" represents a server that understands a protocol and the user experience rests on three pillars: html, for document structure, css, for presentation, and javascript, for actions.<br><br>Currently, web pages are delivered as a stream of bytes. It's a tad verbose, because text, such as the table tag, is used to communicate a block of data is a table. Still, streams of bytes are universally understood and so clients, in theory, are equal. We know, though, that there are differences, though year after year, these decrease.<br><br>A lot of people are using json to represent data. This is more succinct than html or xml, but is still, at heart, a standard for describing data objects using plain text.<br><br>The real issue I'm seeing here is how does the server package a chunk of bytes so that its type is identifiable and how do they get the client machines to understand the type and faithfully honor the type contract?<br><br>It's interesting. Backwards compatibility is going to be the biggest problem from a software engineering challenge. Maybe that's why it's a new "browser." <br><br>On the other hand, this could be another pathway into the concept of internet os, with this defining the nature of the apis. Type safety reduces bugs.
    DannyO_0x98