Collaboration, Knowledge Representation and Automatability

"Collaboration" over the World Wide Web is a very broad area of research, involving wide-reaching issues such as knowledge representation, annotation of objects by objects, notification, and any other issues which arise in the creation of shared information systems and collaborative development.

This document, begun in 1995, describes a number of W3C activities relating to collaboration, knowledge representation and Web automation. It should not be considered up to date, but might nevertheless be useful.

Contents: Overview | Timeline | Implementations | Resources | Historical

Nearby: RDF | PICS | Semantic Web Development | Technology and Society


This document was originally organised into sections corresponding to early W3C Working Groups on the topics of Annotation, Collaboration and Knowledge Representation. In the years since these areas were first explored on the Web, hundreds of new tools for Web collaboration have been created. The focus of this page is now more specifically directed at annotation and knowledge-representation based collaborative tools.


An annotation can be loosely defined as "any object that is associated with another object by some relationship". One example of an annotation could be a document which contains comments on an original document, such as a magazine's review of a web site, or a colleague's modifications to a draft.

Knowledge Representation

The Web can be thought of as a freeform, decentralised knowledge representation system. The original proposal for the Web explored this idea, a theme that was revisited in 1997 when W3C begun work on the Resource Description Framework (RDF). Other work on wide-area KR interoperability includes DARPA's DAML initiative, and (historical interest) the Knowledge Sharing Effort

W3C's Semantic Web Development pages provide further detail on the use of Web technologies for knowledge representation and collaboration.

Timeline and History

Recent events and publications relating to WWW and collaboration...


In September 1995, the W3C sponsored a Workshop on WWW and Collaboration to identify extensions to web technology which would facilitate wide-area asynchronous collaboration.

W3C host two discussion lists as a continuation of this initiative. The www-collaboration list (archives) provides a public mailing list for technical discussion on the use and further development of web technology for collaboration, particularly wide-area and asynchronous collaboration. The www-annotation list, (archives) provides a public mailing list for technical discussion on annotation, to continue the work originally begun on the W3C Annotation Working Group mailing list.

Other than providing a forum for these discussions through these public mailing lists, the W3C is not actively involved in the development of collaboration-specific technology at this time. This page should point you to further resources and put you in contact with people working in these areas.


There are now numerious implementations of Web-based collaboration and annotation tools. It is no longer feasible to attempt a reasonable survey of such tools on this page. A few interesting systems are listed here; the links gathered on the RDF, PICS and Semantic Web Development page may also be of interest.

Annotation, Metadata and Rating Services

Further Resources

There are many good places to learn more about Web collaboration and annotation issues, technologies, and directions.

Essential Elements of an Open Hyperdocument System, as developed by Douglas Engelbart, make a good measuring stick for evaluating collaborative technologies.

A Study of Linguistics: Representation and Exchange of Knowledge by Dan Connolly provides some background reading on KR issues. See also Dan's WWW Research Notebook.

The RDF Interest Group (since Nov 1999) is an active public forum for discussing the application of W3C metadata technology in the context of the social, legal, and technological issues surrounding Internet content selection, filtering, labelling, signing, quality assurance etc. The searchable archives may be of interest for researchers in this area.

Workshop Materials

IEEE WET ICE '96: Stanford, CA, USA, June 19-21, 1996

"Collaborating on the Internet: The World-Wide Web and Beyond". The Fifth Workshops on Enabling Technologies: Infrastructure for Collaborative Enterprises (WET ICE '96) will focus on infrastructural issues related to collaboration in diverse application domains, particularly technologies that utilize the Internet.

CSCW and the Web, Sankt Augustin, Germany, February 7-9, 1996, was an an open international workshop on support for collaboration on the Web sponsored by the ERCIM World-Wide Web Working Group (W4G) and GMD.

The first Workshop on WWW and Collaboration was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA from 11-12 September 1995.

W3C Collaboration Working Groups (historical)

At the Workshop on WWW and Collaboration, 11-12 September 1995, a large number of issues were raised, and several working groups were formed to work on specific issues. These groups have now been merged into two public discussion groups: www-collaboration and www-annotation. All are welcome to read the archives and participate in development and discussion.

occasionally edited by: Dan Brickley
Last updated $Date: 2004/05/21 20:33:08 $
Created March 1995