A new working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force aims to establish a standard protocol for sending print jobs over the Internet.
The Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) working group hopes to give Internet users a way to send documents over the Internet to remote printers, no matter what printer or operating system is at either end of the connection.
The group plans to present a final draft of the protocol at an IETF meeting in August. If ratified, the protocol could take about a year, "plus or minus six months" to make it into printers on the market, according to Steve Zilles, cochair of the IPP group and manager of standards at Adobe.
Companies participating in the working group include Adobe Systems, Canon, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lexmark, Microsoft, Ricoh, Xerox, and others.
The protocol will turn printers into Web servers, to which users can send a URL and let the printer fetch the page and print it. To do so, networked printers will need a hard drive for local storage, an addition that would most likely add to a printer's price tag. If a printer doesn't have a hard disk, the user will have to download a document before sending it to the printer. Printers will also need their own Web server and client software.
"The protocol allows the power of the Internet as another way to do document distribution," said Zilles.
The protocol is similar to features announced last week in Adobe's PostScript 3, the latest version of the high-end printer language, but it's unclear how closely the final version of IPP will match PostScript 3.
"There are similarities to PostScript 3 and we hope to keep those similarities strongly linked," Zilles said.