An Architecture for Supporting Quasi-Agent Entities in the WWW
Charles Brooks, W. Scott Meeks, Murray Mazer, OSF Research Institute
One-line summary: Circumvent Web usage limitations by providing
HTTP stream transducers for annotation, semi-autonomous WWW-based (really
HTTP-based) "browsing associates", and front-ends for encapsulating
non-HTTP content (mail, news, Zephyr-grams, etc).
- Quasi-agent goals: autonomy, temporal continuity (runs for a long time
rather than doing one transaction and quitting), ability to communicate
with user and other entities.
- Long-lived stateful stream transducers: browsing assistance that lives
in the HTTP path. Can be used to filter content, characterize (summary
digest) content, index surfed pages, "document correlation",
- Transducers can be "stacked" via thin interface (HTTP proxy)
to compose functionality.
- Browsing associates: silently watch your browsing and do some of their
own in the background. Examples: modify HTML when it detects that a previously-visited
link has been updated; build up graphical maps as user surfs that can be
clicked to control Netscape remotely; etc. These agents have their own
separate UI based on Tcl/Tk.
- Encapsulation/annotation: web mail, news, etc. Group servers
capture and compose annotation info, metainformation, etc. from various
people and dynamically generate annotated document in HTML.
- Investigating using Web protocols for interagent communication, as
well as having agents be conversant in various browser API's, Zephyr notification,
Tcl/Tk send function, etc.
Stateful proxy-like entities that help you out during Web browsing.
It's Web-centric in terms of implementation but the architecture seems
more general, even though authors don't directly make that claim.
- Authors would like to generalize the "transducer" notion,
but seems like they are running into the obstacles of stateless HTTP, HTML
as the only medium, etc.
- Plans to build a "shared bulletin board" (basically
a newsgroup) via HTTP gateway, or putting a Zephyr client front-end on
it; how is this different from putting that on top of NNTP news?
- In general, this and other work sometimes blurs the difference between
a useful hack that provides new functionality per se (like
browsing associates, transducers) and semi-useful hacks that just reinvent
the wheel using Web protocols and clients (web mail, bulletin board).