W3C

Web Annotations on the Horizon

Annotation, the act of creating associations between distinct pieces of information, is a widespread activity online in many guises but currently lacks a structured approach. People comment about online resources using tools built into the hosting web site, external web services, or the functionality of an annotation client. When reading eBooks, people make use the tools provided by reading systems to add and share their thoughts or highlight portions of texts. Comments about photos, videos, and audio tracks, questions or clarifications about data, maps, and social media posts or mentions are all forms of annotation.

However, annotation currently lacks a structured approach. Comments are siloed inside the blog or comment system hosted and controlled by the publisher of the original document, or inside an eBook reader. They aren’t readily available for syndication or aggregation, and it’s difficult to find more comments by an insightful author if they are scattered around different places on the web. Worthwhile commentary is obscured by trolling, spam, or trivial comments. These are challenges both social and technical.

In April, W3C convened a Workshop on Annotations to discuss these challenges. Today W3C published a Workshop summary with links to slides, videos, and position papers.

Today W3C also invites review of a draft charter for a new Web Annotation Working Group based on the Workshop discussion. The group will develop an open approach for annotation, making it possible for browsers, reading systems, JavaScript libraries, and other tools, to develop an annotation ecosystem where users have access to their annotations from various environments, can share those annotations, can archive them, and use them how they wish.

The public is invited to comment on the draft charter.