ERCIM News No.25 - April 1996 - GMD

ERCIM W4G Workshop "CSCW and the Web"

by Klaas Sikkel, Uwe Busbach and David Kerr

A workshop on Collaborative Work and the World Wide Web, organized by the ERCIM World Wide Web Working Group (W4G) and hosted by the Institute of Applied Information Technology of GMD, took place on 7 to 9 February 1996. 44 Persons from nine countries participated at this exciting event.

Computer-Supported Cooperative Work has been an issue of active research for more than a decade. The World Wide Web offers novel possibilities as an underlying infrastrucure to support collaborative work across the Internet. Over the last year, Web-based collaborative applications have started to emerge.

The aim of the workshop was to establish contacts between people with an active interest in this field and to learn from each other's experiences with problems and opportunities involved in the design, construction and deployment of Web-based collaborative systems.

The size of the workshop was limited to around 40 participants, so as to allow for presentations, demonstrations and discussions in a rather informal manner. Consequently, the registration closed two weeks before the announced deadline. The unexpectedly large interest in the workshop is a sign that Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and the Web is an area of rapidly growing interest.

The twelve systems that were presented and discussed at the workshop comprise a good overview of the state of the art. The scope of these systems ranges from simple tools that have successfully been employed in real usage to grand visions that still have to be realized.

While all of the presented systems use the Web to support cooperative work, they do so in very different manners: extending the functionality of Web servers versus offering client-side helper applications; using the Web as the interface to an application versus using the web as a transport layer that is transparent to the user interface.

It is hard to predict what the state of the art will be around the turn of the century and which standards will have arisen, but it seems certain that truly useful Web-based collaborative applications will be available in the near future.

One session of the workshop was dedicated to EU-sponsored research projects in this area. The focus of projects in the ESPRIT and Telematics Applications programmes is more and more on the deployment of existing, rather then the development of new technology. Therefore it was very useful to establish contacts between persons who develop exciting new systems and those who intend to bring these to the market. In addition, the meeting proved useful to establish contacts between different EU projects with related interests.

Web pages about the workshop with links to the presentations are available from Elaborated proceedings will be accessible from this location in due course. More information on ERCIM W4G is available from To join the mailing list of this working group, send electronic mail to

Please contact:
Klaas Sikkel - GMD
Tel.: +49 2241 14 2462

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