WebML going mainstream? The path to standardization

As you may know, I’m involved as WebML scientific advisor with Web Models, the company that produces the WebRatio toolsuite. Among the various activities pursued by the company, with the support of Politecnico di Milano, we can count the evolution and promotion of the WebML language. Within this stream of work, the company recently decided to investigate the standardization options for the WebML language (see the recent post by Stefano Butti in the WebRatio blog on this) and asked me to join the effort.
In this post I’ll quickly report on our recent involvement with OMG and about how and why we started thinking about making WebML (Web Modeling Language) a formal standard.
With the aim of proposing WebML as a possible standard for the user interaction design for web applications (and beyond), Stefano Butti and I already attended a first OMG technical meeting in Arlington, VA, where we gave a 5 minute elevator pitch advocating our ideas.
We got an enthusiastic reception of our ideas and some good feedback from the OMG members already in this early stage. There is a wide and strong consensus on the need of a standard language for dealing with visual user interfaces, user interactions, and so on. Past initiatives (such as the Conallen proposal) have basically failed in gathering interest and adoption at the industrial level, and therefore a big gap still remains to be filled. 
From a technical and scientific perspective, we feel that our contribution can fit very well into the overall OMG vision, as WebML can perfectly integrate with and complement languages well established as international standards such as UML or the domain-specific ones like SOAml, SysML, BPMN and so on (actually, integration with BPMN has been already accomplished both at the language and at the tool implementation levels).
The problem of defining a generalized standard for user interaction design is definitely challenging, but we think we will be able to provide some good value on this. The current version of WebML is consolidated through more than 10 years of experience in the field; we have a solid modeling toolsuite already implemented, commercially available (and downloadable for free); and we can exhibit a bunch of big customers and industrial success stories to support us.
On the other side, we don’t want the upcoming standard (and the associated standardization process) to be something supported only by ourselves. We want to gather interest on the problem and to collect contributions, ideas, and feedback on the solution as broad as possible. The partnership with OMG is crucial because it will foster the discussion among the big players in the software and modeling market.  Indeed, I would prefer to have a lot of tool vendors agree on a common standard, than come out with our own personal proposal.
That’s why in the next months I will participate to the upcoming OMG meetings to gather interest and consensus on the topic. The final aim is to submit a standardization proposal (hopefully supported by a consortium of tool vendors and customers as large as possible) and for doing this we foresee two possible paths within the OMG procedures: to go for a RFC (Request For Comments), in which we basically propose WebML as a possible standard and we gather opinions on it; or to opt for an open RFP (Request  For Proposals), in which we outline the requirements for such a solution and we collect interest and proposals. Based on what I said before, we are currently oriented to a RFP. Anyway, the choice between RFC and RFP will be discussed within the ADTF group (Analysis and Design Task Force) in the next OMG meeting in Salt Lake City, on June 22. We will present WebML, our desiderata and the requirements we foresee for standardization, and select together with the other task force members the best option. We expect that the name of the standard will change (the current option is IFML – Interaction Flow Modeling Language).
If you are interested in this and/or want to join/support the initiative, please contact me and we will be glad to share our ideas.

To keep updated on my activities you can subscribe to the RSS feed of my blog or follow my twitter account (@MarcoBrambi).

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