Adobe Systems has proposed a standard that could make it easier to create Web pages with fancy layouts seen more often in magazines.
The company proposed a technology it calls CSS Regions (PDF) yesterday to the World Wide Web Consortium, which standardizes the Cascading Style Sheets technology widely used to control formatting on Web pages. Adobe also described the technology at a CSS Working Group meeting in Silicon Valley.
"This proposal is intended to support sophisticated, magazine-style layouts using CSS," said Arno Gourdol, director of engineering for runtime foundation at Adobe, in a mailing list posting.
CSS, though, is the heart of where formatting work happens on a modern Web page.
Not coincidentally, magazine layouts are central to Adobe's InDesign software for combining text and graphics into newspapers or magazines. Better features in Web standards would make it easier for Adobe to offer InDesign customers the ability to render a version of their designs for the Web.
Another sign: last week's Digital Publishing Suite, which takes InDesign content and produces downloadable versions for the iPad, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy, and BlackBerry PlayBook.
There's already work under way to improve CSS's layout abilities. CSS founder and Opera Software Chief Technology Officer Hakon Wium Lie has been advocating CSS grid layout abilities.
And apparently that's met with some success, because one of the items on today's CSS meeting agenda is a "request for resolution to move Grid Spec from editor draft to working draft," a step closer to standardization.
Of course layout is only part of the challenge of bringing the polish of professional publishing to the Web. Another is better typography. That's being solved through the Web Open Font Format, a downloadable font technology that dovetails with CSS's font control. It's gradually gaining browser adherents and, significantly, also has support from typeface designers.
Perhaps the bigger challenge, ultimately, will be an opposite one, though: building technology from the Web into traditional publishing.
The Web increasingly is a dynamic place at odds with the static world of magazines and newspapers. Even basic interaction such as comments profoundly change the nature of the media. Video, animations, 3D, and any number of other technologies promise even more changes for the publishing industry--and for Adobe.