W3C Remarks by Charles M. Vest

The following remarks were delivered by Dr. Charles M. Vest of MIT at the World Wide Web Consortium Tenth Anniversary Celebration in the Grand Ballroom, Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, Boston, Massachusetts (USA) on 1 December 2004.

I am privileged to welcome all of you, on behalf of MIT, to this celebration of the 10th anniversary of the World Wide Web Consortium, and to congratulate you on an incredible decade of accomplishment.

Today we have a rare opportunity:

In this time of cynicism, conflict, and international tension, I for one would like to thank those of you assembled in this room for creating and sustaining a cooperative, international venture for the greater good.

I think there are two shining examples of the engineering, scientific, industrial, and governmental communities "getting it right."

The first was the establishment of the Montreal Protocols that phased out the use of CFCs after it was understood that they were causing the depletion of the Ozone Layer - and doing it in a way that was fundamentally fair to both wealthy and poor countries.

The second is the establishment of the World Wide Web Consortium.

Even I can claim a miniscule cameo appearance in your great undertaking, because:

In the 1990s, Vice President Al Gore was hard at work in Washington, bringing about the National Information Superhighway to link Americans together by digital communications in all aspects of their endeavors.

One day, while this work was being done, Michael Dertouzos telephoned me. "Chuck, my boy, let me explain something to you," he said. "The National Information Superhighway is great, but the real power of the Internet is global. There is a new thing called the World Wide Web. It has been invented by a wonderful guy named Tim Berners-Lee. He is in Europe. We need to bring him to the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science. Our purpose will be to create an international consortium to make Tim's vision and invention really serve the whole world. I need you to come with me to Brussels to meet with important people at the European Commission. Here is what we are going to do."

So off we went to meet with Commissioner Bangaman, George Metakides, and others to lay some important ground work. It was a privilege to tag along and lend the support of MIT to this great idea, and later to host a luncheon at a seminal follow-on meeting here at MIT.

Well, you know what followed. In a selfless display of working for the common good, Tim Berners-Lee, Michael Dertouzos, the European Commission, the Laboratory for Computer Science, and many others came together, rather quietly, to create a pathway for a true World Wide Web.

[I almost messed everything up, however, because in Brussels, Commissioner Bangaman had served an elegant wine at our lunch.

When he came to the meeting at the MIT faculty Club we served, well -- water. He was none too happy, and a decade later, Metakides is still giving me a hard time about that.]

But now it is 2004.

The Laboratory for Computer Science at MIT has evolved into CSAIL, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

And MIT is very proud that CSAIL is home to W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium, which is now an indispensable part of the world's infrastructure that enables

Its work has changed the way everyone in this room and far beyond lives, works, learns, conducts research, does business, and communicates.

MIT is proud to be at the center of this great endeavor.

And I like to think that important elements of the nature and character of MIT are reflected in the form and work of the Consortium:

Of course, MIT, like all forward looking organizations, has in turn benefited from the work of the W3C in the way we conduct our core activities of teaching and research. This is true at every stage -- from students applying for admission on-line to the conduct of internationally collaborative research, to the MIT OpenCourseWare initiative that is making the basic teaching materials for 2,000 MIT courses available to teachers and learners anywhere in the world at any time, free of charge.

Thank you for making all this possible.

You have truly changed the world for the better.

Keep it up!

Charles M. Vest, MIT, 1 December 2004