$Id: speak.htm,v 1.1 1995/11/01 22:54:42 connolly Exp $
My first exposure to the world-wide web just a little over four years
ago was on an obscure internet discussion forum -- alt.hypertext. Today,
folks see URLs in Time, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal. And when I
saw that Burlington Coat Factory had a storefront on the web, I realized
that it's no longer just a cool "net.project" -- it's a way of doing business.
It's become consumer technology.
Technology for the Web Marketplace
I'll talk briefly about why the web has been accepted and deployed
Then I'll introduce you to the World Wide Web Consortium, and discuss
its role in electronic commerce.
And I'll spend the remaining time discussing W3C activities related to
That's what brings us here today -- the promise of a revolutionary
new consumer technology. The web is undisputably the hottest technology trend
today. But will it last?
Technology trends are like stars -- some never get past the vapor stage.
Some grow too fast -- they go supernova and end up as white dwarves
-- nice markets -- or black holes -- a danger to anything near them. But
my view is that the world-wide web will have a long, healthy life as a pervasive
technology. The marriage of distributed hypermedia and the decentralized
networking infrastructure of the Internet is evidently just what the times
are calling for.
There are few novel technologies in the World-Wide Web. It is simply
an effective application of ideas that have been tested and proven:
- Sharing information makes people more effective
- The Internet is an excellent platform for a distributed information
- HTTP is a very simple information retrieval protocol.
- It's an extensible basis for a number of valuable applications.
- HyperText and HyperMedia are an effective way to represent human
- HTML is a simple structured document representation, capable of
representing many common forms of communications.
- URLs comprise a simple hierachical document address space, which can
accomodate many of the existing information systems on the Internet.
- A direct manipulation interface (i.e. "point and click") is easy
- The Web Architecture is Extensible
- Data Formats: HTML co-exists with Postscript, PDF, plain text. Graphics,
sound and multi-media formats are seamlessly integrated. Java, Safe-Tcl,
and other mobile code formats fit in as well.
- Protocols: HTTP co-exists with legacy protocols such as FTP and NNTP,
plus new protocols as they come along
- Addressing Schemes: as new directory services are deployed, new URL schemes
can be used to access them.
The result: The web is now a vital, global information
system, and an exploding marketplace.
Obviously a lot of people are using the net and the web today. But a whole
lot more are sitting on the side of the pool, watching the trade rags, testing
the water, and trying to decide if and when to jump in.
In high-tech markets, the web is already cost-effective. Hewlet Packard
actually reduced support costs and increased customer satisfaction
by delivering more information via the web and less by telephone.
Other web markets are not so mature today. But they're all growing. Various
measurements of the size of the Internet and its markets may be all over
the scale, but they all show the same trend of exponential growth. Smart
business folks realize that even though the web may not be cost-effective
today, the cost of playing catch-up tomorrow might kill them.
- Ubiquity, Reliability, Security
- The ideal platform will have all three. The web leads in ubiquity,
and technology providers are addressing reliability and security
- Reliability comes though shared understanding of the technology: good,
open specs for the development community, and consistent user interfaces
(including documentation) for the user community.
- Security requires infrastructure and social engineering
- Directory Services, Navigational Aids, and Reliable Links
- 3rd great lie: "You'll find it on the web"
- Frustration with broken links
- Lack of authoring and collaboration tools
- Performance, Availability
- Parity between HTML and Desktop Publishing
How Do We Increase the Quality of Service and Security, increase
Performance, and foster Knowledge Sharing?
Clearly, there are large market segments where the producers and the consumers
are sitting on opposite sides of a technology gap. They can't find each other
in the vastness of the global information space. They can't exchange payments
securely and reliably. The data formats limit the expressive capability of
the information providers. And in this age of instant gratification, nobody
wants to wait for information once they've found it.
This market demand for better web technology has not gone unnoticed. Enter
Spyglass. Spry. Netscape. O'Reilly, EIT. And on their heels come IBM, Novell,
Microsoft, Lotus, and MCI. Not to mention the legion of consultants, access
providers, information providers, digital librarians and editors, and support
Maintaining Confidence in the Technology
Don't forget the internet software development community that brought
you Mosaic, USENET News, Internet Relay Chat, and the other ubiquitous
applications on the internet.
Believe it or not, that "free software" community is a stabilizing influence
on this market frenzy: one thing that draws information providers to the
web is the tremendous size of the audience. Depending on any technology that's
not royalty-free severely limits the audience.
The result is that while these companies can add value to the web by offering
stability, support, and custom applications, it would be self-destructive
for them to "splinter off" by failing to interoperate with the mainstream
- People resist change
The technology will be perceived as stable
as long as individual sites and users can choose between staying with their
old applications and upgrading to participate in the new features. If they
are forced to change their operation in response to changes that they did
not ask for, they will be upset.
- Mistakes are costly
Once technology is deployed, it never really goes
away. Mistakes represent a documentation, development, and support burden
for a long time. It is critical to experiment and gain experience before
- Consumers demand quality software products
Internet tools have moved
from research projects, to user-supported software, and now to the consumer
market. Commercial development takes time: time to learn the technology and
develop products, including testing, support, and documentation.
- Mission critical applications must not be compromised
vast resources available for development of mission critical applications
will simply be applied somewhere other than the web.
So how do vendors differentiate themselves? Where does innovation fit
it? After all, growth of the market depends on confidence in the technology
which comes from a blend of the promise of an upgrade path with a proven
track record of reliability.But for example, look at the Netscape extensions
to HTML. Netscape is catching a certain amount of flak for not sumitting
a proposal for public review before deploying them. But I believe they made
an honest effort to investigate and avoid interoperability problems. If you
add, say, a <blink> tag to a document, it doesn't cause mosaic or any
other browsers to behave strangely. So while the netscape extensions violate
the letter of the current HTML spec, they do not violate the spec in spirit.
As a counterexample, we can look back to the introduction of forms in
HTML. Information providers who wanted to use forms had to include disclaimers
like "look out! If you don't have Mosaic 2.0 or some other forms-capable
browser, this page will look funky." There are mechanisms in the protocol
that could have been used to let the software figure that out without manual
It's one thing to add features to the system and encourage users to upgrade
to software that supports them. It's quite another to carelessly deploy features
that makes the installed base of implementations look broken. That
forces users to upgrade, and destroys confidence in the technology.
Anyone looking at the web as a basis for mission-critical applications will
be watching closely to be sure that enhancements are gracefully deployed.
If they see the rules broken too many times, they'll just have to find some
other way to get their job done.
- Founded in September of 1994 at MIT (some ARPA funding)
- INRIA joined as European Host in 1995 (some EC funding)
- Tim Berners-Lee came from CERN to be Director
- 12 Full-Time Staff joined since March
- Funded by Industry, with help from ARPA
Members and Growing: hardware/software vendors, content providers, service
See: The World Wide Web Consortium at
- Ensure Interoperability and Market Growth
will carve out their niche in the vast marketplace of W3 products and services,
but none of these companies has the last word. The core technology will remain
royalty-free, which allows it to spread quickly.
- Bring together Critical Mass of Industry Players
e.g. the PICS effort
- Balance Short-Term Needs with Long-Term Evolution
- Coordinate Development Resources
The development of the web was a
research/volunteer effort. The current demand is more than that community
can support. In fact, it's more than almost any one company or organization
could shoulder. A consortium allows all the interested and motivated parties
to contribute without taking on the entire burden.
- Balance "Open" with "Rapid Evolution"
Foster Market Growth and Capitalism
with a certain amount of communism.
The Internet Engineering Task Force
working groups provide a forum for open communication and consensus building,
and the W3 consortium provides resources to research and develop the
technologies. Consortium members will have early access to the technology
in order to be able to support it when it is publicly released.
- Develop technology to increase Reliability, Security, and Automation
- Maintain Interoperablility
- Increase Ubiquity
- Primary Market: Technology
- Clients, Servers, Tools, Systems
- Working Closely with
FSTC etc. in other Markets
- Consumer Market: Flowers and CDs
- Inter-Enterprise Markets: Business-to-Business Commerce
- Intra-Enterprise Markets: Internal Information Management and Commerce
The W3C Security Working Group is developing technologies to address
the basic principles of network security that are necessary to secure a wide
variety of applications: Confidentiality, Authenticity, Non-repudiability,
- Coordination and Liason Activity
- W3C Security working group meetings are attended by major software
vendors as well as large potential consumers of the technology
- Protocol Review and Development
- SSL, S-HTTP
- Integration of security extensions with other HTTP extensions
- Code Development and Integration
- Export control, Intellectual Property issues are holding up development
of freely available security technology.
- Public Key Infrastructure
- Integration of Certificate infrastructure with the web
- Legal Issues are without precedent. ABA has recently released
digital signature guidelines for review.
- Netscape, Microsoft, IBM, AT&T, Time-Warner, and others
met to put technology in place to allow parents and teachers to control what
children see on the net.
- 1st Party Rating: Voluntary Access Control
- 3rd Party Ratings: Independent Rating Services
- Technology put in place to meet this need is extensible, and may apply
- Copyright, Payment information
- Data Authenticity
- Reviews, Nominations, SOAPs
- "Meta-Information," URCs, etc.
- What comes after HTML forms and CGI? CORBA , Java, and VRML.
- Integration of W3 with CORBA and Desktop Message Bus technologies
- Workshop likely next spring
- Investigating vendor-neutral APIs and class libraries for web clients
(ala CCI) and seb servers (ala CGI)
- Multi-party Transaction Services
See: Demographic feedback: Overview of Resources at
- Standards for Hit Counts and other Advertising Metrics
- Need to Gather Demographics vs. Privacy Rights of Consumers
- Need to Conduct Dialogs with Users
See: HTML Working and Background Materials at
- HTML 2.0 is now a an IETF Proposed Standard
- Conformance Testing
- Proposals for Applets and Embedded Objects are being unified
- Enhancements to support Security, Payment, and Copyright policies
- Style Sheets
for parity with Desktop Publishing Systems --