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Sun, Adobe offer bounty for XSL

In an attempt to jump-start XSL development, the firms are putting up $90,000 for independent developers who come up with specific XSL implementations.

SAN JOSE, California--In an attempt to jump-start XSL development, Sun Microsystems and Adobe are putting up $90,000 in bounties for independent developers who come up with specific XSL implementations.

Sun's Jon Bosak, chair of the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) XML coordination group, alluded to the prizes during his keynote presentation at the XTech 99 conference here. Bosak said the companies would formally announce the prizes next month.

Extensible Stylesheet Language (XSL) is a W3C working draft that allows Web developers to apply formatting rules to XML documents. XSL allows for information about the formatted document's structure, differentiating between body, title, chapter, table of contents, and the like.

The companies will reveal the winning implementations at the Graphic Communications Association's XML 99 conference, scheduled for the first week of December. The firms plan to eventually put the winning technologies in the public domain.

XSL is made up of two main parts. The first is a transformation language that lets content be reordered, refiltered, or translated into a new set of tags--from XML to HTML, for example.

The second part of XSL is its formatting language, and it is this area that Sun and Adobe's incentive prizes are meant to stimulate.

Sun will put up $30,000 for implementations of XSL to be added to the open source effort, developing the source code to Netscape Communications' Communicator browser. This implementation would be a plug-in that would provide XSL formatting capabilities for the Mozilla browser and would fall under the Mozilla public license.

The move reflects Sun's relationship with Netscape and America Online as the online giant's proposed acquisition of Netscape is pending. After AOL completes the acquisition, it plans to partner with Sun to market Netscape's enterprise software.

The second set of prizes, funded in part by Adobe, will provide a $40,000 first prize and a $20,000 second prize for a print-oriented batch formatter written in Sun's Java programming language and that supports Adobe's portable document format (PDF). The batch formatter will let a printer process information from style sheets when printing batches of data.

Sun and Adobe's move with XSL development comes as more and more companies are turning to worldwide communities of developers to produce publicly available technologies, often through open source efforts such as Software firms are finding that there's nothing like an open source project to muster sheer numbers of programmers to tackle a problem.

Programmers often contribute to open source or public domain software efforts out of a sense of cooperation that fostered much of the Internet's early development, or to be recognized for their work. But with the contests mentioned today, Sun and Adobe have added an unusual financial incentive.

"The idea is to put the code out there so that people can use it," Bosak said.