Cover ERCIM News 52

This issue in pdf
(64 pages; 7,6 Mb)

cover ERCIM News No. 51
previous issue

(Number 51
October 2002):
Special theme:
Semantic Web

all previous issues

Next issue:
April 2003

Next Special theme:
Cognitive Systems

About ERCIM News

Valid HTML 4.01!

< Contents ERCIM News No. 52, January 2003

About the World Wide Web Consortium

The World Wide Web Consortium was created in October 1994 to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability. W3C has nearly 450 member organizations from all over the world and has earned international recognition for its contributions to the growth of the Web.

By promoting interoperability and encouraging an open forum for discussion, W3C commits to leading the technical evolution of the Web. In just over seven years, W3C has developed more than 40 technical specifications for the Web's infrastructure. However, the Web is still young and there is still a lot of work to do, especially as computers, telecommunications, and multimedia technologies converge.

W3C's Goals
W3C's long term goals for the Web are:

  • Universal Access: To make the Web accessible to all by promoting technologies that take into account the vast differences in culture, languages, education, ability, material resources, and physical limitations of users on all continents
  • Semantic Web: To develop a software environment that permits each user to make the best use of the resources available on the Web
  • Web of Trust: To guide the Web's development with careful consideration for the novel legal, commercial, and social issues raised by this technology.

W3C's Role
As with many other information technologies, in particular those that owe their success to the rise of the Internet, the Web must evolve at a pace unrivaled in other industries. Almost no time is required to turn a bright idea into a new product or service and make it available on the Web to the entire world; for many applications, development and distribution have become virtually indistinguishable. At the same time, easy customer feedback has made it possible for designers to fine tune their products almost continually. With an audience of millions applying W3C specifications and providing feedback, W3C concentrates its efforts on three principle tasks:

  • Vision: W3C promotes and develops its vision of the future of the World Wide Web. Contributions from several hundred dedicated researchers and engineers working for Member organizations, from the W3C Team (led by Tim Berners-Lee, the Web's inventor), and from the entire Web community enable W3C to identify the technical requirements that must be satisfied if the Web is to be a truly universal information space.
  • Design: W3C designs Web technologies to realize this vision, taking into account existing technologies as well as those of the future.
  • Standardization: W3C contributes to efforts to standardize Web technologies by producing specifications (called 'Recommendations') that describe the building blocks of the Web. W3C makes these Recommendations (and other technical reports) freely available to all.
    Design Principles of the Web

The Web is an application built on top of the Internet and, as such, has inherited its fundamental design principles:

  • Interoperability: Specifications for the Web's languages and protocols must be compatible with one another and allow (any) hardware and software used to access the Web to work together.
  • Evolution: The Web must be able to accommodate future technologies. Design principles such as simplicity, modularity, and extensibility will increase the chances that the Web will work with emerging technologies such as mobile Web devices and digital television, as well as others to come.
  • Decentralization: Decentralization is without a doubt the newest principle and most difficult to apply. To allow the Web to 'scale' to worldwide proportions while resisting errors and breakdowns, the architecture(like the Internet) must limit or eliminate dependencies on central registries.

These principles guide the work carried out within W3C Activities.

W3C organizes the work necessary for the development or evolution of a Web technology into activities. Each activity has its own structure, but an activity typically consists of one or more working group, interest group, and coordination group. Within the framework of an activity, these groups generally produce recommendations and other technical reports as well as sample code. Important to every W3C activity is quality assurance (QA) and patent policy. To manage related activities, the W3C team groups them into four domains: Architecture, Interaction, Technology and Society, and the Web Accessibility Initiative.

Guided by these design principles, W3C has published more than forty Recommendations since its inception. Each Recommendation not only builds on the previous, but is designed so that it may be integrated with future specifications as well. W3C is transforming the architecture of the initial Web (essentially HTML, URIs, and HTTP) into the architecture of tomorrow's Web, built atop the solid foundation provided by XML.

Challenges for Tomorrow
In other specifications, W3C is addressing a number of challenges for the Web of tomorrow:

  • Ensure access to the Web by many devices.
  • Promote best practices.
  • Coordinate with international regulatory bodies
  • Account for cultural diversity
  • Encourage research.

W3C Organization
To meet its goals (universal access, semantic Web, Web of trust) while exercising its role (vision, design, standardization) and applying its design principles (interoperability, evolution, and decentralization), W3C process is organized according to three principles:

  • Vendor neutrality: The W3C hosts are vendor and market neutral, as is the Team. W3C promotes neutrality by encouraging public comment on specifications during their entire life cycle.
  • Coordination: The Web has become phenomenon so important (in scope and investment), that no single organization can or should have control over its future. W3C coordinates its efforts with other standards bodies and consortia such as the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), the Unicode Consortium, the Web3D Consortium, and several ISO committees.
  • Consensus: Consensus is one of the most important principles by which W3C operates. When resolving issues and making decisions, W3C strives to achieve unanimity of opinion.

W3C Team
The W3C Team includes more than seventy researchers and engineers from around the world who lead the technical activities at W3C and manage the operations of the consortium. Most of the team works physically at the three host institutions. ERCIM currently hosts 19 team members.

More information: