Jean-François Abramatic, Director of Development at INRIA: "ERCIM institutes are ready to play their part in the development of the Web of tomorrow".
It is scarcely believable that as little as three years ago (Spring 1993), the information technology research community was living without any Web to crawl on.
Nowadays children browse the Web looking for the lyrics of their favourite songs; high energy physicists share results of their costly experiments; newspaper owners wonder if their business is in danger; and stock markets roar any time a piece of Web-related software comes out on the net.
Governments are enfeebled by the limited resources available to enforce new regulations and by the geographical reach of new services crossing borders without any toll.
As a research institute employee, I have mixed feelings about this unpredicted situation. On the one hand, we were caught by surprise. If we are supposed to be looking ahead, this is some kind of a failure. On the other hand, this whole thing emerged from CERN and NCSA who are major players of the research community. One can argue that they were, themselves, caught by surprise! In any case, they undoubtedly belong to our community.
If we take the past as it is and start heading towards the future, the perspective for research institutes looks very promising:
- The challenges that are in front of us, require a lot of scientific expertise that research laboratories can provide more effectively than any other organisations (eg checking the capabilities of secure software).
- The time and distance constraints of delivering solutions to new challenges (in other words, the inertia of the system) have been reduced. The gap between research ideas and real use has therefore shrunk dramatically. Delivering new tools (eg authoring, searching and indexing, replication and caching etc) and seriously testing their capabilities is feasible with a limited set of resources.
- The process for software production is bound to a new paradigm where world-wide collaborative approaches compete with proprietary methods. This strongly relies on the availability of open software environments that are shared around the world. Again, research organisations are very well positioned to exploit this new situation. In a few words, this new landscape gives new opportunities to strong research laboratories that are ready to take on the challenge of the world-wide competition.
This ERCIM News issue shows that ERCIM institutes have rapidly foreseen these opportunities and that they are ready to play their part in the development of the Web of tomorrow.
How about joining us in Paris at the 5th International World Wide Web Conference 6-10 May (http://www5conf.inria.fr) to share the fruits of our first ERCIM vintage?