This public report was first prepared for the June 2014 Advisory Committee meeting. See also the W3C Fact Sheet - June 2014 and the November 2013 W3C highlights. For future versions of this report, please consult the latest version.
- Innovation at the Edge
- Stabilization of the Core
- Web Ecosystem
- Appendix: Group Details
"We should work toward a universal linked information system, in which generality and portability are more important than fancy graphics techniques and complex extra facilities."
— Information Management: A Proposal, Tim Berners-Lee, 1989
The original proposal for the World Wide Web
In 2014 we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Web and the 20th anniversary of W3C. What is W3C's vision for the Web at this milestone? Our long-term vision remains that originally expressed by Tim Berners-Lee: a "universal linked information system" to support communication at the scale of the planet, capable of connecting all people and all devices. Thanks to the "generality and portability" pursued by Berners-Lee from the start, people today can browse the Web on tablets, televisions, car dashboards, eBook readers, and wearable devices. As a result, the Web has changed humanity.
Many forces have influenced our choices along the way:
- social forces such as the popularity of social networking, revelations of mass surveillance, government calls for internet regulation, censorship, and cybercrime.
- market forces such as open source software, user adoption of proprietary mobile operating systems, social network silos, and user demand for streaming video that some content producers will only distribute with DRM.
W3C's ability to create standards of value depends on how we interact with these forces. Our decisions are guided by design principles, operational principles (see Open Stand for example), and our long-term vision. Many of these principles are broadly shared within our community, but they are also hotly debated. They are surely not static —compare Berners-Lee's Principles of Design with the Architecture of the World Wide Web and the HTML Design Principles. Certain themes do recur:
- To achieve the scale required of a communications platform for humanity, the Web must be universal, open, decentralized, simple, and generative.
- It must support accessibility and the world's languages.
- It must enable us to communicate with security and privacy.
W3C's project, then, is to create a universal communications platform that addresses market needs and fulfills our long-term vision of a Web for all. Why do we think the Web is the platform with the most potential for serving humanity? It is ubiquitous, open, and has a solid architecture. Though flawed, it has the best chance for success. But only if we protect and enhance our investment.
For that reason, W3C is always seeking to expand the Web's capabilities to encompass the full range of human activities: entertainment, transportation, publishing, health care, government, and more. We think that the properties that have served the Web well for 25 years make it well-positioned to provide value in these new areas. Some industries have already begun to leverage the value of the platform, including digital publishing, whose EPUB 3.0 standard is defined in terms of Web technologies.
The system is decentralized and ever-changing. Some innovations will occur as industries stretch the Web to meet their needs, others will come from browser makers and other software developers, still others from practitioners who need to get work done more efficiently. By designing a generative Web with extensibility points, built on Royalty-Free standards, we make it easier to innovate on the edge. Some innovations such as device-specific APIs may never see universal adoption. But generally useful innovations that are widely adopted and achieve interoperability define the next generation core platform.
In addition to embracing innovation wherever it occurs, we continue to solidify the core platform so that more people can use it dependably. HTML5 interoperability is growing thanks to a significant testing effort, WebRTC adoption is accelerating (by some accounts it is now available on more than 1 billion devices), and we are making progress around offline use of Web applications.
We also know there is much to do. Though video is now a first-class citizen of the Web, we do not yet have royalty-free video codecs. There is huge demand for video on the Web, but creators of some forms of premium content and open source developers have not yet found common ground for the distribution of that content. We do not yet have the degree of interoperability we seek so that app developers can write once and deploy anywhere. We do not yet have a way to balance user privacy and advertising practices. We do not yet have scalable security mechanisms. Rich editing on the Web is still a challenge. We do not have have adequate representation of user needs within W3C. We need more developers with experience to review and contribute to solutions.
At a high level, W3C's current activities and objectives involve:
- Linking proprietary and open: we want to create a rich, open platform for applications. To enable the experiences users expect, we seek to create open Web standards for some features (e.g., in-app APIs or packaging) that have been popular on mobile devices, and enable the native and open world to exchange information more easily.
- Linking devices: As the Internet of Things, wearables, and second screen scenarios drive app development, the Web must be capable of integrating these devices across a wide range of protocols, network environments, and use cases.
- Linking people: We want to ensure that people can trust the Web, by hardening its security mechanisms and giving users more options for privacy online. People will gain more value from social networks personally and in business if they can more easily connect those networks. At the same time, we continue our work on accessibility and internationalization so that all may participate.
- Linking industry: We want to enable the convergence of diverse industries around a common open platform to create value for users and opportunities for businesses.
It is hard to predict what the Web will look like in 25 years because the Web is not the product of one company or individual. This is by design: everyone should be empowered to shape the Web. However, there is a cost to distributing responsibility for the commons, and some areas (e.g., integrated tooling) may fall through the cracks for a time. We need broad interoperability, again and again, to bring software, devices, and people together.
W3C is recognized for its role in developing the Web infrastructure, but it is not the only organization to do so. We work within a larger ecosystem to achieve our goals for the Web and ensure the various components function as a whole. And like any organization, available resources and agility affect how quickly our projects advance. W3C is revising its Recommendation track process, expanding its testing activity, and creating new opportunities for developer involvement in order to scale.
In the remainder of this report we highlight some of the innovations being explored at W3C, progress in stabilizing the core, evolution of the organization, and relations with others in the Internet ecosystem. As always, this report only covers a fraction of the work underway in W3C groups. Please see the Appendix for links to more information about recent achievements and near-term plans.
For additional perspectives on W3C and the future Web, see Jeff Jaffe's blog series Web @ 25, W3C @ 20 – An opportunity to reflect, and to look to the future.
Innovation at the Edge
The current embrace of the Open Web Platform by the mobile, entertainment, publishing, automotive and other industries raises an important question for W3C. Historically we have emphasized "generality and portability" in our standards, with an explicit emphasis on device-independent design. Yet some important modern use cases are device-specific: a vehicle API for automotive; or screen orientation, vibration, and NFC for mobile devices. In some cases, bringing use cases to the broader W3C community may lead to more general approaches, which can improve overall Web interoperability. For example, the annotations work discussed below arose in the context of discussions about digital publishing but is clearly interesting beyond publishing use cases.
W3C Community and Business Groups are also proving a useful venue for new ideas. Today more than 4000 people are participating in more than 180 groups. The community launched 30 new groups since November 2013; read more in the slide set 2014 Update: Community and Business Groups.
The Open Web Platform is the third platform for mobile and 37% of mobile developers use HTML5 as a platform. In February Gartner named HTML5 number 2 of their top 10 mobile technologies for 2015 and 2016, predicting "As HTML5 and its development tools mature, the popularity of the mobile Web and hybrid applications will increase. Hence, despite many challenges, HTML5 will be an essential technology for organizations delivering applications across multiple platforms."
In 2013 a W3C task force studied how the Web fares as a compelling development platform for mobile devices compared to native ecosystems, leading to a detailed gap analysis. The analysis covered the user experience across the app lifecycle: discovery, installation, launch, background, offline use, updates, notifications, etc. The findings led W3C to identify a few high-level technical priorities and set up the Web and Mobile Interest Group as the forum for continued analysis and prioritization.
In the past six months, here is how W3C fared on some of these priorities:
- The ApplicationCache approach to addressing offline use cases has not proved effective. The Web Applications Working Group has made progress on a new approach, Service Workers, (a type of Web Worker, which enables thread-like operations in Web apps with message-passing as the coordination mechanism). The group published a first draft of Service Workers in May and implementations are already in active development.
- The Web and Mobile Interest Group and the Web Applications Working Group are making progress on installable apps. A first draft of Manifest for web apps and bookmarks was published in December; this is slated to replace the previous widget approach.
- With input from W3C's Technical Architecture Group (TAG), the Web Applications Working Group has made progress on push notifications, which enable Web apps to receive notifications even when not running (for example, to alert the user of an incoming call when their phone is closed).
- WAI's Mobile Accessibility Task Force is making progress on accessibility-supporting techniques for mobile applications, drawn from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and User Agent Accessibility Guidelines.
One of the promises of the mobile Web is that applications can
run on many different types of devices, with different screen
sizes and other capabilities. In the past six months, work on
responsive images has converged on two complementary solutions
that are seeing rapid adoption (
srcset attribute and
element); these will also improve the performance
of Web apps.
For those topics and new ones such as convergence with hybrid development environments, identity management, and hardware tokens for authentication, the Web and Mobile Interest Group has gained traction as the forum to discuss, define and monitor plans. To address additional gaps —for example comprehensive development and debugging environments for Web apps— more resources will be necessary. For this reason, W3C management monitors progress, resources, and priorities in this space.
Below we discuss payments and security as well. For more detail, please see Standards for Web Applications on Mobile: current state and roadmap, which is updated quarterly.
Driving a car is a mobile experience, but users and the automotive industry have requirements and expectations beyond those familiar to phones and tablets. These include increased safety, navigation, location-based services, in-car entertainment, and integration of people's digital lives.
The auto industry expects tremendous growth in the connected car market. Gartner predicts that, "by 2016, the majority of average car buyers for a standard brand vehicle in mature markets will expect at least basic Web-based information availability in their new automobiles." One 2014 study of 2000 US consumers found that among young people, 52% want to connect their smartphone to use all its applications from the vehicle’s dashboard interface. It's easy to understand the excitement. Drivers can benefit from useful information about traffic and road conditions, the weather, and nearby attractions. Passengers can play music or movies over the car's entertainment system. Automakers can maintain direct customer relations more easily after the original vehicle purchase. Advertisers have a captive audience, and so on.
After a 2012 Workshop on automotive and the Web, W3C launched a Web and Automotive Business Group to help ensure that the Open Web Platform can meet the unique needs of the automotive industry, and to help stakeholders within the automotive industry work effectively within W3C. Today more than 110 people participate in the group, including representatives from global auto manufacturers, mobile operators, OEMs, and the Genivi Alliance.
W3C anticipates as next steps that the group will finalize the report and request advancement to the W3C Recommendation Track. The Business Group may then begin to address the challenges of reducing driver distraction and improving safety.
TV and Broadcasting
In their cars, planes, cafes, and homes, people are turning increasingly to the Web for their video content. Research published by the Pew Research Internet Project as part of a series on the Web at 25 indicates that in the US, most people would now find it more difficult to give up the Internet than television. Online video providers in China are also creating broadcast-style channels and content at a fast pace, expedited by looser governance than traditional broadcasting.
This content creation trend is visible in many parts of the world. Viewers in the UK are spending more time watching online media than TV creating potential advertising opportunities. In the US, in 2013 internet ad revenue ($42.8B) exceeded broadcast ad revenue ($40.1B) for the first time, although both continue to grow at the expense of print ad revenue. Large firms such as Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo shared their plans to produce internet-delivered TV shows a while ago, but we are seeing publishers join the part as well such as Condé Nast and mostly recently the New York Times Company. The Walt Disney Company also announced it would buy Maker Studio, a producer of YouTube videos, for at least $500M.
The Open Web Platform already enables the distribution of rich media to thousands of devices and is growing more powerful with technologies such as Media Source Extensions for adaptive streaming and time shifting live streams. W3C's work on Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) continues to generate controversy with developers.
Connected/Smart TVs, which bring Web video to the living room, are also gaining in popularity. For example, China, the introduction of low-cost non-brand smart TVs has made them more and more popular. However, according to to Ovum, "Fragmentation of the user experience is one of the biggest barriers to more rapid adoption of connected TV services. As long as there is complexity and discontinuity in the transition between the 'traditional' and connected TV experiences, a large proportion of consumers will remain alienated and reluctant to explore the benefits of connected TV."
That is where the Open Web Platform can add value: by making it easier to integrate content from many sources and connect devices in ways not currently possible with proprietary platforms.
To discuss these trends, W3C held its fourth Web and TV workshop in March on Web & TV Convergence. Hosted by IRT in Munich, Germany and sponsored by NBCUniversal, the workshop brought together stakeholders representing the broadcasting, media, electronics and other industries from around the world. Much of the agenda concentrated on multi-screen applications and hybrid TV, showing that these topics are still very relevant and a key issue for W3C to address. Over the two days participants also engaged in discussions covering other areas such as testing, audio, accessibility, metadata and more. The Workshop report provides additional detail.
Two key outcomes of the workshop were the creation of a new TV Control API Community Group in order to draft an API for web apps to access and control channel data such as that found in an electronic program guide (EPG). In addition, productive work within the Second Screen Presentation Community Group has led to discussions about the transition of that work to a Working Group.
The Web and TV Interest Group, working with the Device APIs (DAP) Working Group, published a major update of the Network Service Discover API in February. The update addresses privacy and security concerns and should make device pairing easier with televisions and other home appliances.
To meet industry and regulatory requirements, and to ensure that Web video is accessible, W3C is standardizing formats for captions on the Web. In March W3C announced a new charter for the Timed Text Working Group, which includes work on a new Timed Text Markup Language (TTML) 2 specification, WebVTT (transitioned from the Web Media Text Tracks Community Group), a semantic mapping between TTML and WebVTT in order to facilitate browser implementation and market adoption, and a text and an image profile of TTML appropriate for worldwide subtitling applications.
The Web and TV Interest Group has begun to elucidate a new set of use cases, requirements and subsequent gap analysis for the TV industry. Now is a good time for Members and other interested parties to get involved.
Like the automotive industry, the digital publishing industry has embraced mobility and brought its own requirements —related to the rich history of print, education, metadata, and so on— to standards conversations. At least in the UK, E-Book sales have overtaken print sales. In 2012, the New York Times reported that their "circulation revenue —money made from people buying the paper or access to its digital edition— surpassed advertising revenue" for the first time. Business models are changing all over and these trends show no sign of slowing.
W3C believes the Web platform is right for publishing, and the publishing industry has always been an early adopter of Web technology. EPUB 3.0, the latest version of that standard from the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF), is build on HTML, CSS, and SVG. However, through our outreach to IDPF and other leading consortia in the publishing industry, including BISG, EDitEUR, IPTC, the Daisy Consortium, and NISO we know that W3C standards may not yet provide all the necessary features for digital publishers.
To gather these requirements, W3C launched a new Digital Publishing Activity in July 2013. The Digital Publishing Interest Group has set up a number of Task Forces to consider the different aspects of publication use cases, including layout, styling, metadata, annotation, markup, and accessibility. These task forces have collected a number of use cases, have published initial drafts of reports. The Interest Group has also conducted interviews with important members of the publishing community on the subject of publishing metadata. These interviews will inform further actions and work.
A number of recent publications should help bring the Web and publishing worlds even closer, including a first draft of WOFF 2 for high-quality typography on the Web, and progress on CSS Generated Content for Paged Media, CSS Grid Layout, and CSS Writing Modes for various international writing modes, such as left-to-right (e.g. Latin or Indic), right-to-left (e.g., Hebrew or Arabic), bidirectional (e.g., mixed Latin and Arabic) and vertical (e.g., some Asian scripts). The Digital Publishing Interest Group also published a first draft of Requirements for Latin Text Layout and Pagination, rooted in the tradition of print book design and composition.
From conversations with digital publishers, W3C observes renewed interest in annotations on the Web (a topic long ago on W3C's agenda as the Annotea Project). Users annotate the Web in many ways, including comments on articles, footnotes, sticky notes, "hot spots" on images, time-stamped notes on video or audio tracks, highlighted text passages in eBook readers, and even tagged bookmarks. But annotations today are siloed, reducing the value of this information. Blog comments are walled off in systems hosted and controlled by the publisher of the original document, or inside an eBook reader. They are not readily available for syndication or aggregation, and it can be difficult to find more comments by an insightful author if they are scattered around the Web.
Annotations are considered a crucial feature for the digital educational market which, one of the most dynamic and most technically demanding areas within digital publishing. Driven by discussions within the Digital Publishing Activity, W3C therefore organized a Workshop on Annotations in April. Fifty experts attended, representing both the publishing industry and "traditional" Web application developers. As of the publication of this report, W3C is still evaluating the Workshop results.
As the automotive, television, publishing and other industries look to apps as a way to connect with their customers, a common refrain is: how can we monetize this?
While e-commerce sales topped $1 trillion in 2012, we know there is room to improve the experience of online commerce. For instance, the average shopping cart abandonment rate is 72% across all devices, and 97% on mobile. On proprietary platforms, in-app revenues are soaring, and forecast to grow to $63.5 billion in 2017. At the same time, revenues from the "paid apps" model are decreasing, suggesting there will be even more interest in in-app capabilities, and that payments will play a key role.
To understand how to provide a comparable or superior experience to proprietary platforms, W3C held the March 2014 Web Payments Workshop in Paris. More than 100 people from the banking industry, payment service providers, virtual currencies providers, financial institutions, mobile industry, browser vendors, payment regulators, and payment standardization bodies met to discuss Web payment use cases, business requirements, and standardization priorities: we will need standard mechanisms for app developers to receive payments; simpler mechanisms for users, merchants, and credit card companies; improved loyalty programs; and better security to combat fraud. Meeting participants recommended that W3C establish a “steering group” to formulate a strategy and roadmap of Web Payments.
To succeed, we will need participation by major actors from the payment industry, some of whom are not involved in W3C today. To encourage early participation, W3C created a Web Payments Charter Development Community Group to develop the charter of the future steering group. The Community Group has already published an early draft charter for review. This charter identifies several clusters of work: wallet and wallet API, payment transaction messaging and identity, authentication, and security. We expect the new Interest Group to be launched in Q3 2014, after commitment of a critical mass of payment industry players.
Social data —status updates, user profiles, and other social technologies— is another form of currency recognized across industries as having tremendous value. Today's social APIs and protocols do not allow easy transfer of social data between existing systems, as is required by many "social business" systems for both business-to-business and business-to-customer relationships. In addition, lack of standard APIs makes it difficult for Web application developers to embed social functionality from third-party sites into their apps. All these forms of friction decrease the value of the data to businesses and individuals.
At the same time, because social data has reshaped our communications, politics, shopping, health care, travel, and many other aspects of life, many users and organizations would like to exercise greater control over their own data while sharing it in a decentralized manner. We do not yet have a Web-based protocol for such federation.
W3C has been developing community and interest in social standards as far back as a 2009 Workshop, through various activities such as Incubator and Community Groups, an IBM Social Business Jam, and a 2013 Workshop on Social Business. More recent indicators of growing interest include the Open Social Foundation becoming a W3C Member, and the OpenSocial 2.5.1 Activity Streams and Embedded Experiences APIs Member Submission.
With this momentum, in May the Director proposed to the Membership a new Social Activity, with a goal of making "social" a first-class citizen of the Open Web Platform by enabling standardized protocols, APIs, and an architecture for standardized communication among Social Web applications.
A new Social Web Working Group is expected to standardize:
- an extensible transfer syntax for activities like status updates, with the ActivityStreams 2.0 data-format as a possible starting point.
- an API for third-party social content embedding, with the OpenSocial 2.5.1 Activity Streams and Embedded Experiences APIs Member Submission being as a possible starting point.
- a protocol for federation, with the Web Mention protocol and the Linked Data Platform as possible starting points.
A new Social Interest Group will look at developing use cases, a unified social architecture, and some vocabularies for data related to social.
Web of Things
"The Internet of Things (IoT) has a potential transformational effect on the data center market, its customers, technology providers, technologies, and sales and marketing models, according to Gartner, Inc. Gartner estimates that the IoT will include 26 billion units installed by 2020, and by that time, IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion, mostly in services."
The value of data from people is rivaled perhaps only by the anticipated value of data from the Internet of Things. However, the potential value created by adding billions more devices to the network is currently held back by fragmentation of communication technologies and the lack of a common approach to enabling services. W3C believes the Open Web Platform is very well-positioned to reduce the fragmentation, by enabling interoperable services across a Web of Things.
The Web of Things is expected to have broad and sweeping economic and societal impact. Open standards will be critical to enabling exponential growth of the kind we experienced with the early days of the Web, that saw it growing from a handful of enthusiasts in the early nineties to a global phenomenon in just a few years.
More than 100 people have been documenting Web of Things use cases within the Web of Things Community Group. As a next step, participants at the June W3C Workshop on the Web of Things, hosted by Siemens, will look at what we need from the Web to create new opportunities in home automation; security for homes and businesses; health care at home and in hospitals; manufacturing and construction; transportation; energy efficiency; emergency management, and more.
In the face of the increased demand discussed above, Open Web Platform extensibility hooks help developers manage the tension between innovation and interoperability. We know from experience that it is difficult to support both extensibility and interoperability in such a massively distributed system as the Web. W3C has looked at a variety of approaches, some successful in certain markets (such as XML, which recently received a positive evaluation report from the European Commission) and some not (such as XBL).
Any solution involves trade-offs, such as between simplicity and scalability. The newest extensibility contender, Web Components, has gained traction from looking at how implementations of Web technology have been designed to support incremental improvements over time without breaking backwards compatibility. The approach is summarized in the Extensible Web Manifesto.
We expect Web Components to lead to reusable libraries and templates, and popular ones will suggest candidates for standardization. The community has shown its support for this approach: Web Components was recognized as the "Best New Web Technology 2014 net Award".
W3C staff are looking to organize a W3C Workshop —unconference style— on Web extensibility and future HTML features, in September in Berlin, co-located wtih JSConf EU.
Stabilization of the Core
In this section we look at key advances in the stabilization of the current generation of Open Web Platform technologies.
W3C plans to advance HTML5 to Recommendation in 2014. To do so, the HTML Working Group is focused on removing a small number of unstable features (anticipated as part of Candidate Recommendation), ensuring the stability of normative references (such as DOM4 and Encoding), and demonstrating interoperability.
The group's primary tool for demonstrating interoperability is the HTML5 test suite, which includes more than 140,000 tests contributed by developers. HTML5 test development has accelerated as part of general advances in W3C's testing activities.
In April, drawing on experience from the Web Applications Working Group, the HTML Working Group adopted a new work mode to simplify participation and empower specification editors.
In 2013 the staff proposed to the Membership an ambitious testing project and sponsorship program to increase the interoperability and reliability of the Open Web Platform. Although we did not achieve our ambitious goals, we did raise awareness about testing plans and received valuable contributions from Adobe, Opera, Intel, Facebook, and Mozilla. By the end of 2013, Mozilla was contributing test infrastructure, Intel was contributing tests, Adobe contributed the Test the Web Forward brand to W3C, and Tobie Langel (then W3C Fellow from Facebook) brought the pieces together to make it much easier for people to contribute.
As a result of that work, contributions to the test suite have doubled in the past six months. The W3C test repository on github includes 60 test suites (with varying coverage).
Tests come from many sources, including Members and W3C Groups. For example, the Internationalization Working Group contributed tests to both the HTML5 and CSS test suites.
The broader community is also contributing. Test the Web Forward events in Tokyo, Seoul, and Seattle in the past six months have not only generated tests, but have helped to build a scalable community of test writers, covering a number of topics. For instance, Test the Web Forward participants began work on an accessibility testing resource during the November 2013 event in Shenzhen and further developed it in Seoul. Test the Web Forward also serves as the documentation for how to contribute to W3C test suites.
Our upcoming plans include:
- More tests, and cleanup of existing tests. As the test ecosystem grows in reliability and usability, tests become increasingly used to support technical discussion and shape how a standard evolves;
- Automatic checking of tests;
- Nightly test results from browser makers, which Working Groups should be able to use in implementation reports;
- Improved bindings between specification features and corresponding tests.
W3C did not achieve one of the 2013 testing goals of meeting television industry needs for stability and interoperability, but the Web and TV Interest Group is revisiting the topic.
Currently, the CSS Working Group is developing more than fifty specifications. Fortunately, the group is growing to handle new requirements from the digital publishing community and other new feature requests. In the past six months the group has advanced a number of specifications and published first drafts of "Will Change" (which can improve page performance), "Line Grid," "Scoping," "Display," and "Font Loading".
Current efforts are focused on three areas:
- Exposing primitives to allow complex functionality (and polyfills) to be built on top, rather than giving larger, black-box chunks of functionality that can't be adapted or extended. Examples include "Font Loading", "Will Change", and exposing the transform matrix to scripts.
- Bringing functionality that is common in paper printing to the Web and eBooks, thus simplifying web-and-print multi destination publishing. For example, in books and other paged media, content may be moved to or generated for special areas of the page, such as running heads or footnotes. Generated content within pages, such as tab leaders or cross-references, helps readers navigate within and between pages. Participation in W3C by publishers and web-to-print companies has contributed significantly to advancing this work.
- Continued strong collaboration between the CSS Working Group and the SVG Working Group, involving joint publication (Filters, Web Animations, Masking, Compositing), and deeper referencing of each other's specifications.
Security vulnerabilities threaten to erode trust in the Web and in the companies that depend on it. And they are costly: a 2013 study on global cybercrime indicates both that cybercrimes are costly, the cost is rising, and attacks have become "common occurrences." Web applications create new security challenges as logic moves from server to client, and apps pull information from multiple sources. We do not yet have a clear picture of what issues will arise as the Internet of Things takes off.
W3C is creating building blocks for secure Web applications. The Web Cryptography API advanced to Last Call in March and is already being implemented across major browsers. The API is used to perform basic cryptographic operations in web applications, such as hashing, signature generation and verification, and encryption and decryption. Additionally, applications may use it to generate and/or manage the keying material necessary to perform these operations. Uses for this API range from user or service authentication, document or code signing, and the confidentiality and integrity of communications. The value of well-implemented cryptography was confirmed in the report from the January Workshop on Strengthening the Internet Against Pervasive Monitoring, co-organized by W3C and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB). The Workshop report includes other recommendations for "hardening the Internet" at both the application and protocol layers.
A number of other specifications help Web developers safeguard end-user interactions with applications. W3C published CORS as a Recommendation in January, advanced UI Security to Last Call, and produced a First Public Working Draft of SubResource Integrity, which allows user agents to verify that a fetched resource has been delivered without unexpected manipulation.
Many projects and companies are now requiring high security Web applications with improved authentication. Several Working Groups have discussed the integration of hardware tokens for Web applications. However, there are different forms of secure tokens (from smartcards to secure micro-SD) and different services that could be brought by those trusted elements (storage, cryptographic operations, secure operations, authentication). Industry effort in this area like the FIDO Alliance, which includes the use of mobile devices and biometric readers for authentication, has also been rapidly maturing and could intersect with the W3C agenda. To look at possible extensions to WebCrypto work to interact with hardware, two-factor authentication, and the relation to work in the FIDO Alliance, W3C is organizing a September Workshop on Authentication, Hardware Tokens and Beyond.
It is also important that W3C specifications are designed with attention to security concerns. The W3C Security Interest Group is exploring methods of review and collaboration with groups within and outside W3C.
Revelations of 2013 and 2014 have underlined the need and the demand for improved mechanisms for online privacy as well as security. According to PEW Research, for example, "86% of internet users [in the US] have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints —ranging from clearing cookies to encrypting their email, from avoiding using their name to using virtual networks that mask their internet protocol (IP) address." Some governments are also doing more to empower citizens. For example, California's new law AB 370 requires "all websites that collect personally identifying information to disclose in their privacy policies how they respond to browser Do Not Track signals." In March, the European Parliament passed, "the EU’s first major overhaul of data protection legislation since 1995, taking into account today’s online landscape."
In April W3C took a modest but fundamental step in strengthening online privacy protections with the publication of a Last Call draft of Tracking Preference Expression (TPE). TPE will standardize how users say that they do not want to be tracked from site to site, and give sites a way to indicate whether they are tracking or not. With TPE, advertisers can more easily give users information and control so that they can make informed choices about the interest-based advertising they receive online.
TPE is the foundation specification for users to express privacy preferences online, but it is not a complete privacy solution. The next step after TPE will be to define a common way (or more than one common way) for sites to respond to the user preference. The TPE specification has been made flexible enough to allow different compliance regimes. Stakeholders requested this flexibility in order to be able to set their own compliance approaches. However, this flexibility comes with a cost: it is likely to be far more costly for implementers, and potentially confusing for users if multiple compliance approaches are implemented. The Tracking Protection Working Group has resumed work on the compliance specification, Tracking Compliance and Scope. We currently estimate both specifications will advance to Recommendation in June 2015.
"The speed with which a page renders in a visitor’s browser affects every conceivable business metric, including page views, bounce rate, conversions, customer satisfaction, return visits, and of course revenue....The median web page has slowed down by 47% since 2012."
W3C's Web Performance Working Group is developing APIs to enable developers to measure and improve application performance. In the past six months they published "Performance Timeline" and "User Timing" as Recommendations, advanced "High Resolution Time Level 2" to Last Call, and published a first draft of "Navigation Error Logging."
Two recent publications from other groups will also enable developers to improve app performance:
- CSS Will Change allows an author to inform the user agent ahead of time of likely changes to an element. The user agent can then optimize the user experience by performing potentially-expensive work preparing for an animation before the animation actually begins.
- WOFF 2 features improved compression to make better use of network bandwidth while still allowing fast decompression even on mobile devices.
To enable communications globally, Web formats and protocols must support all of the world's languages, writing systems, character codes and local conventions. To achieve this goal, W3C's Internationalization (I18N) Activity advises W3C Working Groups, reviews W3C publications, coordinates with the Unicode Technical Committee, the IETF, ISO committees, and the localization industry. I18N increases awareness of internationalization issues via conferences, workshops, articles and Working Group Notes. I18N provides early input to Working Groups and reviews Last Call Working Drafts on a wide range of topics, including Unicode character normalization, international typographic requirements, script issues in text-to-speech implementations, internationalization and localization requirements for schemas, usage scenarios and requirements for the internationalization of Web services, implementation of international resource identifiers, and many more.
Highlights from the past six months include:
- Publication by the The MultilingualWeb-LT Working Group of ITS 2.0 as a W3C Recommendation, making it easier to automate human language processing on the Web.
- Preparation for publication by the I18N Working Group of a first draft of Predefined Counter Styles which provides cut and paste code for authors for 122 international counter styles (covering 28 writing systems), useful for such things as numbered lists and numbering headings.
- Initial work on requirements for Chinese layout. This work will complement initiatives also under way within the Internationalization Activity such as the Indic layout requirements, and Korean layout requirements, and the work being done in digital publishing.
W3C engages with the community through the successful MultilingualWeb workshop series, including a May event in Madrid. In addition, several community groups are discussing a broad range of multilingual aspects relevant for emerging Web technologies.
The Activity also continues to augment its extensive library of internationalization techniques.
To enable barrier-free access to the Web, accessibility solutions must be integrated throughout Web standards and, for some situations, available in dedicated specifications as well. In keeping with the trends described above —the evolution of the Web into an application platform, the adoption of Web technology by the mobile, publishing, and television industries, etc.— W3C continues to expand its accessibility solutions to address more types of user interactions.
In the past six months, W3C advanced several specifications that help developers increase the accessibility of Web applications. For example, WAI-ARIA enables developers to support the accessibility of dynamic content and advanced user interface controls. WAI-ARIA 1.0 advanced to Recommendation in March (read the press release and testimonials) and work on WAI-ARIA 1.1 has already begun. IndieUI Events makes it easier to design consistently usable interfaces across a variety of input modes, platforms, hardware, locales, and user preferences; WAI published new IndieUI drafts in May.
WAI also coordinates with Working Groups to integrate accessibility features into their specifications. Thus, the HTML Accessibility Task Force recently added key features into HTML Canvas 2D Context. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) reviews all W3C specifications and is available as needed for consultations to ensure accessibility support.
Since TPAC, W3C also launched the Mobile Accessibility Task Force to produce and update techniques, understanding and guidance documents; and the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force to look at issues such as dyslexia, autism, and other issues. Recently, a number of Community Groups were also launched to discuss accessibility topics.
WAI also continues to augment its extensive library of Education and Outreach materials including new tutorials that provide easier on-ramps for Web accessibility. During this period WAI also updated its Website Accessibility Conformance Evaluation Methodology.
In this section we look at the evolution of W3C the organization, and its role in the broader Internet Ecosystem.
To aid in the pursuit of its long-term vision, W3C has evolved a process and patent policy tailored to the creation of quality open standards. The process places high value on consensus decisions, and strives to promote fairness, responsiveness, and progress. The W3C Process Document was last revised in 2005, and the community has pushed for changes that increase agility while preserving the above values. A public Revising W3C Process Community Group, with the guidance of the W3C Advisory Board, has developed a proposal for a new Recommendation Track designed to:
- support multiple specification development methodologies,
- maximize consensus about the content of stable technical reports,
- ensure high technical and editorial quality,
- promote consistency among specifications,
- facilitate royalty-free, interoperable implementations of Web Standards, and
- earn endorsement by W3C and the broader community.
W3C invites feedback on the document through 13 June 2014 at email@example.com.
Ultimately developers determine whether Web technology will succeed. Although thousands of developers participate in W3C activities today, we are exploring a new way to give developers a greater voice within W3C, and increase our chances of success. The "Webizen Task Force" is drafting a proposal for a program designed to:
- attract more stakeholders to the W3C community, including the many people who do not write technical specifications but who care deeply about the open Web;
- make it possible for these individuals and the general public to shape W3C's agenda and priorities;
- create stronger bonds between W3C specification authors with the vast ecosystem that relies on their work; and
- encourage general public review of Web technology.
Though the program is still evolving, one important goal is to ensure developer representation within W3C's Advisory Committee, the body that reviews proposals for new work and elects the W3C Advisory Board and TAG. Other proposed benefits include an annual briefing with the CEO, a public profile on w3.org, and discounts on certain W3C services. The program is not expected to include Working Group participation, which is already possible for Member employees and individuals (through the Invited Expert program).
W3C invites on the proposal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
W3DevCampus follows a "traditional e-teaching" approach where the instructor plays an active role, guiding students, personalizing learning, and helping to ensure that students successfully complete the course. Completion means more than a certificate, it means marketable skills.
We invite W3C Members to work with us to develop new material and to sponsor courses, and to make them available to their developer networks. Thanks to support from Intel XDK, for example, students enrolled at no cost in three 4-week courses on Responsive Design.
In September 2013 W3C launched the W3C Validator Suite, a premium online service for HTML, CSS, and Internationalization checks across an entire Website. It offers a faster, easier way to check Web site quality compared to our free validator, which checks Web pages one at a time. Funds from W3C Validator Suite help W3C improve the free W3C validator tools and provide long-term stability of both the free and premium services. In the first 8 months of the service 19,000 users have registered from countries around the world.
We continue to explore ways to promote the program, including offering developers a credit of 20 pages to evaluate the service during the registration phase. We are also looking at the use of coupons in cross-promotion (e.g., with W3DevCampus) or within companies interested in offering benefits to their developer community.
W3C engages in dozens of liaisons with standards bodies and other organizations to coordinate work and share our long-term vision for the Web. These contacts also make it easier for new stakeholders to discover and participate in W3C. In the past six months we started new liaisons with Echonet and ATSC in the Web&TV area. We also engaged particularly actively with several organizations (UPnP, OMA, IPTVF-J, ATSC, HbbTV, DTG, STA, DLNA) to inform them of the evolution of our DAP Working Group Network Service Discovery draft.
WAI also continues to promote standards harmonization given its many benefits for accelerating progress on Web accessibility.
The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) "serves to bring people together from various stakeholder groups as equals, in discussions on public policy issues relating to the Internet." A Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) advises the Secretary General on the IGF program, and includes 55 representatives. Wendy Seltzer's term on the MAG was recently renewed, and in that forum we intend to organize workshops on accessibility and security.
W3C also participates in the ICANN Technical Liaison Group, to "connect the ICANN Board with appropriate sources of technical advice on specific matters pertinent to ICANN's activities." As part of this effort, in April we joined our partners in issuing "Internet Technical Leaders Welcome IANA Globalization Progress," in which we welcomed the US Government's announcement of the suggested changes related to the IANA functions contract. Later that month, Tim Berners-Lee delivered a keynote address at NetMundial in Brazil.
Lastly, W3C responded to a European Commission consultation on copyright with a clear message to keep the freedom to link on the Web.
Industry interest in the Open Web Platform is a testament to its unique properties and potential to connect people and devices at grand scale. Growing demand for features, interoperability, and performance are stretching W3C resources (and may also explain why SD Times named W3C top influencer in 2014). We are exploring new ways for people to extend the platform, new opportunities for people to participate in W3C, and more agility in how we create standards.
At the same time, we must continue to respond to developer and industry demand that W3C strengthen the core, by completing HTML5 in 2014, completing building blocks for secure Web applications, and achieving widespread interoperability through comprehensive testing.
What else must be done to lead the Web to its full potential? In June we will announce the preliminary program for W3C's 20th Anniversary Symposium, a discussion on the future of the Web that will take place on 29 October in Santa Clara, California. We invite you to join us in person for a conference and gala dinner, or to watch the live stream over the Web.
For those attending the June Advisory Committee Meeting in Cambridge, we look forward to seeing you and thank you for your continued confidence in W3C.
Appendix: Group Details
To learn more about recent achievements and upcoming work of all W3C Working and Interest Groups, we have prepared updates for all Activities. The Community Groups and Business Groups site provides access to the activities of those groups.