Web4Groups overview

Non-simultaneous web-based groupware


Web4Groups Logo

Web4Groups I was an EU-funded project to develop an advanced, web-based groupware system. The project went on from 1995 to 1998. The software developed by the project is no longer in operation, but several new systems based on Web4Groups I are in operation: (a) Web4Groups II, (b) KOM 2000.
Web4Groups primarily supports different-time communication, i.e. communication where all users need not be active at the same time. Participants are of course not prohibited from participating at the same time, but the software does not provide facilities for immediate exchange of data between simultaneous participants.

Computer conferencing

The software: Functions

The Web4Groups software provided or was planned to provide the following functions. Most, but not all of them got actually implemented within the project:

Non-simultaneous computer conferencing, i.e. the same kind of functionality that is provided by First Class, Lotus Notes and by many BBSes.

Closed and open activities

Open activities: Anyone interested can become members. Closed activities: Membership is controlled or restricted.
Forums: All members can send contributions, which are immediately made available to all members. Moderated activities: All contributions are approved by a moderator before sent to the members

Personal board

Each activity had an information area, maintained by the moderator and containing links to specially important documents for this activity.
A personal board for personal information and collection of links to important items as chosen by each user.


Annotations: Activities to discuss ordinary world wide web-pages. Any Web4Groups user can start or join the annotation activity on any existing web page anywhere in the world.

Language and thesauri

Multi-language activities: Contributions can be provided in and translated to more than one language.
Thesauri: List of terms, their translation to different languages, their definitions, and if needed discussions on a particular term. A thesauri is typically developed and used by members of one or more activities within a special area to define terms in that area.


Full e-mail interface with MIME support. Users can send and receive mail, external e-mail users can participate via e-mail in Web4Groups activities. To them, a Web4Group activity will look like a mailing list. MIME messages can be sent and received in plain text, HTML, GIF, JPEG format and in proprietary formats like Adobe Acrobat, MS Word, MS Excel, etc.

joint editing

Joint editing activities: Support for a group of people in different geographical locations who want to produce a document together.
Contributions in plain text format and in World Wide Web (HTML) format including images, attachments in many formats, also proprietary formats.

inquiries and trial votes

Inquires and trial votes: Sending a question and collecting and counting the replies, using more flexible methods than just "yes/no".


The software: User interface

Browsing structure

A Web4Groups user uses an ordinary web browser (like Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer) to participate in Web4Groups.
A user can easily find new contributions, but also search for and retrieve old contributions.
Contributions are read one activity at a time. The activities are ordered in a personal preference order chosen by each user.
Simple tools to go through all new contributions in the user chosen order, and to skip less interesting contributions or threads within an activity without unsubscribing from the activity.
User interface is also available in a line-oriented (telnet) version, in voice (phone) and fax versions and via e-mail.


In the SeniorOnline EU-funded project, the telephone interface will be extended to support text-to-voice conversion to aid people who have difficulties with reading.

SeniorOnline will also develop new or modified user interfaces to suit the special needs of elderly people. This might include an off-line client, if the elderly users say that this is an important function for them.


The software: Architecture

Web4Groups can be distributed on many local servers. Each user subscribes to one local server, but can participate in activities from any other server. Replication of activities is automatic to all servers where there is a member of the activity.

Web4Groups is based on an HTTP server entirely written in Java. This means that additional functions can be added directly in the HTTP server by programming in Java. The server provides a library of Java classes to aid in such enhancements.

The Web4Groups map of Europe

The project

Web4Groups is developed by a multi-national consortium with 10 partners in Austria, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and supported by the European Union fourth framework telematics program.

The Web4Groups demo server at DSV.

An independent evaluation of Web4Groups by the SCIMITAR project.

Contact information

If you need a partner, who can provide Web4Groups as a service to your forthcoming EU fourth framework application, contact one of the following:

Organisation Competence URL E-mail
DSV and Acciom Primary developer: data base, protocols, line-oriented user interface http://www.dsv.su.se jpalme@dsv.su.se
Institut Eurecom, France Developer: joint editing http://www.eurecom.fr/ merialdo@eurecom.fr
Kapsch AG, Austria Primary developer: web-based user interface http://www.kapsch.co.at/ diallo@kapsch.co.at
Public Voice Labor Voice and fax interface http://pvl.at/
Omega Generation, Italy Project coordinator, developer: user interface specifications and multi-language support http://www.omega.it adm@omega.nettuno.it
Austrian Academy of Sciences and Public Voice Technology assessment, developer: specifications, voice& fax interface http://www.soe.oeaw.ac.at/ Alton-Scheidl@oeaw.ac.at
MTA SZTAKIComputer and Automation Research Institute of theHungarian
Academy of Sciences
Developer of voting and rating services http://WWW.SZTAKI.HU/ micsik@sztaki.hu
This web page by Jacob Palme, e-mail jpalme@dsv.su.se, at the research group for CMC (Computer Mediated Communication), which is a part of the K2Lab laboratory at the DSV university department. Last revision: 21 November 1999.

This document is also available in Microsoft Word 6 format at URL: http://dsv.su.se/jpalme/w4g/web4groups-summary.doc