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XML Document Agents

Sayers, Craig


Keyword(s): XML document; agents; persistence

Abstract: In this report, we describe a mechanism for creating lightweight mobile agents by embedding agent code within web documents. Each of our agents is a document, and each of our documents is an agent. As agents, they make use of well-defined messaging protocols to communicate, both with other document agents, and with external software agents. As documents, they have a natural persistence and web presence. By making agents that are very lightweight, we can dedicate each agent to a particular narrow domain. For example, we could have one agent for each combination of user and task. Our goal is to support thousands of agents on a single host, while easing the job of developing and debugging them. In addition, each of our lightweight agents is encoded as an XML document, so all of the usual tools for interacting with such documents apply to our agents. For example: we create human-readable web pages by running an XML style sheet over the document agent; we query the state of an agent using standard Xpath/Xpointer expressions; and we persist agents by storing the XML in a file.

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