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April 2003:
Special theme:
Cognitive Systems

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< Contents ERCIM News No. 54, July 2003

News from W3C

W3C Approves Patent Policy

The World Wide Web Consortium has approved the W3C Patent Policy based on review by the W3C Advisory Committee and the public on 21 May 2003. Written by the Patent Policy Working Group, the policy received more support from the W3C members than any Recommendation in recent history. The W3C Patent Policy encourages royalty-free Web standards and aims to solve a specific problem – to reduce the threat of blocking patents on key components of Web infrastructure.

"On April 30, 1993, CERN decided to make the Web work available to any users, without charging a licensing fee. Ten years later, W3C's members have taken the lead and affirmed that, even after revolutionary changes in the world of information technology, the path to new markets is more smoothly paved with open standards," declared Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director. "W3C now sets a benchmark for the pragmatic way to successfully develop royalty-free Web standards in the current patent environment."

W3C's Membership takes Lead in Supporting Royalty-Free Standards for the Web's Second Decade
Based on overwhelming support of the W3C Membership, consensus in the Patent Policy Working Group and support from interested members of the public, Tim Berners Lee has determined that the proposed Royalty-Free Patent Policy should become the Patent Policy for W3C. "The policy affirms and strengthens the basic business model that has driven innovation on the Web from its inception. The availability of an interoperable, unencumbered Web infrastructure provides an expanding foundation for innovative applications, profitable commerce, and the free flow of information and ideas on a commercial and non-commercial basis," he declared.

Beyond establishing a commitment to royalty-free standards, the policy provides W3C with:

  • a stable, practical patent policy
  • a clear licensing framework
  • consistent disclosure obligations
  • an exception handling process when problems arise.

After Three Years of Work, Diverse Parties Create a Common Path
The W3C Patent Policy Working Group was launched in October 1999, after a patent claim against P3P derailed the development of that technology. Based on a legal analysis of the claim, the threat was removed, and work successfully resumed. This and other experiences raised awareness of patent issues in the W3C membership. The Working Group was created in part to make more concrete how W3C Working Groups could successfully work on Web standards in the evolving patent climate.

"The Patent Policy represents what may be the most thorough effort to date in defining a basic patent policy for standard-setting," continued Berners-Lee.

The primary goal of the W3C Patent Policy is to enable W3C Recommendations to be implemented on a royalty-free basis. The policy also requires patent disclosure by W3C members when they are aware of patents that may be essential to the implementation of W3C Recommendations.

In simple terms, the Patent Policy provides that:

  • All who participate in the development of a W3C Recommendation must agree to license essential claims (that is, patents that block interoperability) on a royalty-free basis.
  • Under certain circumstances, Working Group participants may exclude specifically identified patent claims from the royalty-free commitment. These exclusions are required shortly after publication of the first public Working Draft, reducing the likelihood that surprise patents will jeopardize collective Working Group efforts.
  • Patent disclosures are required from W3C Members and requested of anyone else who sees the technical drafts and has actual knowledge of patents that may be essential.

Patent claims not available with terms consistent with the W3C Patent Policy will be addressed by a exception handling process.

W3C Patent Policy:
Director's Decision, W3C Patent Policy:

The W3C Semantic Tour

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) held a series of five one-day events across Europe. The tour, supported by the European Commission, through the Question-How project, started on 10 June in Rome, 12 June in London, 17 June in Munich, 19 June in Athens, and ended on 24 June in Brussels. The goal of this W3C Semantic Tour was to promote W3C technologies bringing to the Web the idea of having data defined and linked in a way that it can be used for more effective discovery, automation, integration, and reuse across various applications. The events have been organized by ERCIM, the European Host of W3C, and five of the European W3C Offices (Benelux, Germany and Austria, Greece, Italy, and United Kingdom and Ireland).

For the Web to reach its full potential, it must evolve into a Semantic Web, providing a universally accessible platform that allows data to be shared and processed by automated tools as well as by people. The Semantic Web is an initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, and has been established to serve a leadership role, in both the design of specifications and the open, collaborative development of technology. ERCIM News has dedicated a special issue to the Semantic Web in October 2002 (No. 51).


Continued Focus on the Mobile Web

W3C continues to focus on the mobile web. Mobile versions of the vector grahpics format SVG (Basic and Tiny) were issued as W3C Recommendations early this year. Moreover, the W3C Device Independence Working Group has just released the first public Working Draft of Core Presentation Characteristics. The group is building a basis for adapting content to device presentation capabilities. This draft provides a common set of property or attribute definitions that may be reused in future vocabularies. Finally, the Multimodal Interaction Working Group released an update to the W3C Multimodal Interaction Framework W3C Note. The framework identifies the major components for multimodal systems. The group is writing specifications to extend the Web user interface to offer input and output choices 'anywhere, on any device, anytime.'


Web Services at W3C

The World Wide Web is more and more used for application-to-application communication. The programmatic interfaces made available are referred to as 'Web services'. W3C's goal is to build an open, extensible technical foundation for the Web, and Web Services is one part of this foundation. W3C has five Working Groups/Task Forces focusing on Web services technologies, and at least another five which have produced the foundation for all other Web services work. With the recent completion of the SOAP 1.2 W3C Recommendation, over 19 technical specifications are under development at W3C within the Web Services Working Groups and Task Forces.

The first building block for Web services, important to all organizations interested in Web Services, is being produced by W3C's XML Protocol Working Group – SOAP Version 1.2. SOAP is a central piece of the Web services architecture, enabling complex application-to-application communication. SOAP Version 1.2, advanced to W3C Recommendation status on 24 June 2003, is a robust and extensible XML-based messaging framework based on SOAP/1.1, with full support for W3C Recommendations, support for multiple protocols (HTTP/1.1 as well as others).

The Web Services Activity is composed of three other Working Groups, addressing the overall architecture of Web services, their description and their composition. The work in Web Services Activity rests in turn on other work done in W3C. The XML Activity is responsible for the XML specification, XML Schema, XPath, XQuery, and other relevant specifications. Work in our Technology and Society Domain has defined specifications for encrypting and digitally signing XML documents or parts of XML documents, which answer important security needs in the Web services area. Other groups at W3C are connected to these groups, either through requisite coordination, or through task forces. For example, the W3C Internationalization Web Services Task Force, which looks at internationalization issues and how they impact Web services applications and infrastructure. These technologies serve as the basis for many other specifications, such as the WS-Security Specification first produced by IBM and Microsoft and now being worked on further in OASIS.

Homepage for W3C's WS Activity:
Web Services published Technical Reports:
From SOAP/1.1 to SOAP Version 1.2 in 9 points:

The Working Groups and Task Forces at a glance:
XML Protocol Working Group:
All work on SOAP 1.2 happens here.

Web Services Architecture Working Group:
This group identifies the overall architecture, identifies missing pieces, and determines whether new work is needed or existing work (inside or outside of W3C) meets needs.

Web Services Description Working Group:
This group is at work on WSDL 1.2, the Web Services Description Language, based on WSDL 1.1..

Web Services Choreography Working Group:
This group is developing a language describing the composition of Web services.

Internationalization Web Services Task Force:
Internationalization of Web services allows applications to function across national, linguistic, or cultural boundaries.

Last W3C Recommendations

  • XPointer element() Scheme
  • XPointer Framework
  • XPointer xmlns() Scheme
  • SOAP Version 1.2 Part 0: Primer
  • SOAP Version 1.2 Part 1: Messaging Framework
  • SOAP Version 1.2 Part 2: Adjuncts
  • SOAP Version 1.2 Specification Assertions and Test Collection

An exhaustive list of all W3C Technical Reports:

ERCIM is the European host of W3C.