TAG By-Election: 2015

The Technical Architecture Group normally holds an election every year for seats that have come to the end of their elected terms. However, under certain circumstances, the TAG must run a special election (sometimes referred to as a by-election). Such a special election is now taking place, to fill the vacated seat of David Herman of Mozilla. We’re lucky enough to have an impressive slate of candidates for this option position: David Baron of Mozilla, Andrew Betts of Pearson/The Financial Times, Sergey Konstantinov of Yandex (already a TAG alumnus) and Bryan Sullivan of AT&T.  All the candidate statements may be found on the official W3C election announcement.

Now comes your part. The election process behind the TAG helps us to set our priorities and agenda and helps us to understand the mandate by which the W3C membership wants us to work. But this only works if the as many as possible of the W3C’s 397 members participate in the election by casting their vote. If you work for, or are affiliated with, a W3C member company or organization, find out who your W3C Advisory Committee (AC) representative is and encourage them to vote. If you don’t have such a direct relationship with the W3C, then encourage people you know who do work for W3C member companies to use their vote. The TAG has a responsibility to help guide the activities of the W3C and to help set the architectural vision for the evolving web. As we execute that mission, we want to be as responsible to the larger web community as possible. With your help, we can ensure that we achieve this goal.

Securing the Web

Today, the TAG approved a new finding, “Securing the Web.”

As the Web platform becomes more powerful, it also becomes more susceptible to a variety of attacks; someone who can pose as the server or modify content on its way to you can insert persistent scripts to track your activity, to modify what you see and even to access your data. These attacks affect all Web sites, not just “sensitive” ones, because the power the platform provides can be misused by attackers even if the site isn’t using it.

At the same time, the IAB has issued advice to design for confidential operation by default, due to the pervasive monitoring attacks that have become prevalent recently.

So, after careful consideration, the TAG has found that:

* The Web platform should be designed to actively prefer secure communication — typically, by encouraging use of “https://” URLs instead of “http://” ones.
* Barriers to adopting “https://” should be removed where feasible.
* The end-to-end nature of TLS encryption must not be compromised on the Web, in order to preserve trust.

Please read the full finding for details. It is primarily aimed at those creating W3C specifications; if Working Groups need assistance, we encourage them to engage with us.

We expect that we will continue to focus on security issues as this finding is implemented.


By design, five of the participants on the TAG are elected by the members of W3C. That means that the membership of W3C have a direct influence over the composition of the TAG and therefore over its technical direction, priorities and mandate. In practice, this has meant that in the past couple of years we have had a significant shift of focus, as W3C membership has chosen to elect candidates whose area of expertise is more oriented around the browser, who have more of an interest in the intersection between JavaScript and other Web technologies, who have been signatories to the Extensible Web Manifesto and who have had a strong belief that the TAG can play a constructive role in connecting the developer community with standards. We’ve taken this mandate seriously and embarked in a program of activities these past two years that have included developer outreach events, “summits,” new findings such as the Promises Guide and guidelines on the use of Capability URLs as well as working on API design with such efforts as Web Audio, EME, Responsive Images and the Push API.

Now an election cycle is starting and four of our seats are up for election. You now have another opportunity to shape the work of the TAG. And by “you” I do not only mean the 401 W3C members as represented by its august Advisory Committee. I mean “you” the web community at large. The nominees are put forward and the votes are cast by W3C members. So if you work for, or are associated with, one of these then you have an opportunity to influence this process via your Advisory Committee representative. If you would like to put yourself forward for the TAG election, or if you have opinions on the the slate of candidates, let that A.C. representative know. If you are not associated with a W3C member you can still get involved. Reach out to someone you know who is associated with a W3C member to let them know what you think is most important for the long-term direction of the Web or to put yourself forward for nomination. Write a blog post. Tweet and mention @w3ctag. Get involved in our discussions on our public mailing list and on Github. The W3C, as a trustee of web technologies and standards holds this position in trust of the wider web community, and the TAG, as steward of Web architecture needs to do so as well.

The nomination period ends on the 30th of November and the election itself will take place in late December and early January. Thanks for your help and support!

Introducing the Extensible Web Report Card

[Post amended to further elaborate on how the Report Card fits into the rest of the TAG’s Work]

The TAG is chartered to work on the architecture of the web.  As the Web continues to evolves from a Web documents to a Web of distributed applications, and as Javascript programming has become such an important part of web development, it’s becoming more important than ever to focus on how we add new features to the web and how we extend existing features. Last year, some members of the TAG collaborated with others in the community in some thinking which resulted in the Extensible Web Manifesto. The ideas promoted by this vision of the future, which include exposing low-level capabilities and doing so in a layered way, have influenced a lot of the work of the TAG, particularly around our specification reviews.

We’ve had feedback at some of our developer meet-ups this year that people would like a better idea articulation from us of the design principles the TAG is employing when we review specs. We’ve also had a lot of questions about how the views in the Extensible Web Manifesto relate to the TAG’s current work. We thought one way to address these questions would be to publish a review of (what we see as) some key standards and how they measure up against the ideals of extensibility. A kind of “Report Card” on the state of the extensible web that could simultaneously provide some feedback to individual standards efforts and show the community some examples of what we’re talking about. The Extensible Web Report Card is the result and it’s a document that we hope to continue to update as new information becomes available. Have a look and please feel free to comment on our work on GitHub or to fork and send pull requests.

TAG Developer Meetup : 22 July in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

The TAG will be holding a developer meetup along side of our next face-to-face meeting in Cambridge, Mass. The event will be in the evening of the 22nd of July, will be hosted by Akamai and organized by the BostonJS meetup group. Thanks to both Akamai and BostonJS for helping us out!

As with our previous TAG developer meet-ups, this will be a pretty simple format. We’ll get the TAG members up on stage for a panel discussion about some of the topics we’re covering. We’re going to let you know what we’re working on, answer questions and hopefully engage in some spirited discussion. The event is open to anyone interested in web architecture, web development, web standards and the future of web tech. It’s free to attend and you do not have to already be a member of BostonJS to attend (though you will have to join that meetup group if you want to register). The event is also listed on lanyrd (though you must register on the BostonJS meetup group to attend).

Capability URLs: We Need Your Feedback

The battle for web security and privacy is fought at many levels. Sometimes common practice in web application design can lead to data leakage with untended consequences for users. A good example of this came up recently where confidential files shared through common web-based document sharing services were being exposed unintentionaly to third parties because the private URLs used to share them had been unintentionally leaked.

URLs that allow a user to access an otherwise privileged resource or information are called Capability URLs, and while they can be powerful, they can also cause potential problems when used improperly.

TAG member Jeni Tennison has been working on a draft defining the space of capability URLs and outlining some good practices for usage. We think this document should be useful for web builders who are thinking about incorporating this pattern into their applications. We think it’s pretty good, but we need your feedback before we finalize it and release it as a TAG finding.

The draft may be found here: http://www.w3.org/TR/capability-urls/ and if you have feedback you are encouraged to raise an issue on github or e-mail us on the TAG public mailing list. Thanks!

Extensible Web Summit Roundup

On April 4th, with the much-appreciated help and support of Adobe Systems, the TAG organized an event in San Francisco called the Extensible Web Summit. As I wrote before the event, the intention was to bring together web developers and web platform developers from the local area to discuss upcoming, in-development web platform technologies and standards both to throw a spotlight on some of the topics we think are key and to guide the TAG’s thinking. Judging from the feedback we’ve received, I we achieved these goals and more.

There were quite a few positive views shared on Twitter, including:

…and the summit has inspired a few blog posts, from Alan Sterns, Brian Kardell and Simon St. Laurent.

The final schedule of sessions and links to the unfiltered notes from these sessions can be found on the Lanyrd page for the event. Thanks again to everyone who came along! Based on the feedback we received, I think it’s likely we’ll be running events in the future in the same format. Watch this space and follow @w3ctag on Twitter to keep up to date.

The Extensible Web Summit

We’re running an event on Friday the 4th of April in San Francisco and you’re invited.

For the past year, along-side our regular face-to-face meetings, the TAG has been holding evening developer meet-ups under the moniker “Meet the TAG.” The radical idea has been to take advantage of the fact that our meetings are happening in cities with large concentrations of Web developers to connect with these developer communities in a meaningful and useful way. The hopeful outcome is to both keep developers informed about what we’re doing, presumably on their behalf, with their platform, and to drive some feedback back into the TAG to help guide our thinking and our work. The results have generally been good, generating useful criticism and feedback which we’ve tried to take on board, and making the TAG less of an echo chamber. In the mean time we’ve met lots of developers who take a keen interest in web architecture and the future of the web platform.

For our next face-to-face meeting in San Francisco, we’re planning to expand this idea to a full-fledged one-day event, bringing in web developers and web platform developers, people who are deeply invested in the web platform but may not be participating directly in standards. We’re calling this event the Extensible Web Summit.

As Twitter denizen Daniel Buchner put it:

@briankardell @wycats @w3ctag are you telling me we’re going to try developing API “products” using direct “customer” feedback? Mind = blown

— Daniel Buchner (@csuwildcat) December 9, 2013

The web is 25 years old. What do we want this platform to look like 25 years from now? This event will bring together web platform developers and practitioners from different communities and backgrounds to focus on the future of the web architecture and platform. With the exception of some curated lightning talks at the beginning of the day to set the scene, the event will be run as an unconference, with the agenda self-organized by the participants. We’d like to thank Adobe Systems for stepping forward as our host for this event.

Who should attend? We would ideally like to pack this event with platform developers, framework developers and web developers with an interest in helping to drive the future of the web platform. If you read and liked what you saw in the Extensible Web Manifesto and you’d like to learn more and influence the direction of this thinking, then we’d love to have you along. Likewise if you are interested in other web technologies such as real time communication, platform & device APIs, security, permissions, manifests & packaging, offline usage, JavaScript promises & streams, push notifications and touch. The event is free to attend, but is filling up fast. If this sounds like your cup of tea, visit our Lanyrd page and grab a ticket.

TAG Election: Decision 2013

Within the W3C, the TAG is chartered with the “stewardship” of Web Architecture:

  • to document and build consensus around principles of Web architecture and to interpret and clarify these principles when necessary;
  • to resolve issues involving general Web architecture brought to the TAG;
  • to help coordinate cross-technology architecture developments inside and outside W3C.

It’s one thing to be a steward of something fairly stable, but the Web is currently in a process of upheaval unknown since its inception nearly 20 years ago. Among the challenges we are currently facing are the rise of mobile platforms and accompanying changes in the way people are finding, interacting with and producing services and content on the Internet; the increasing maturity of HTML5 which has been produced and developed under a new model between W3C and the WhatWG; the maturity of Web applications and the rise in importance of JavaScript in the Web platform and the increasing maturity and complexity of video, 2d and 3d graphics and peer to peer communications as first class citizens of the Web. The Web is under existential threat from native mobile application development approaches  and at the same time there has never been a time of greater innovation and energy in the development of the Web technologies and standards.

Against this backdrop, the challenges of stewardship of the Web Architecture become clear.

This past year, the TAG has sought to have greater and more connections with other W3C working groups developing these new technologies, as well as with groups external to W3C including IETF working groups and ECMA’s TC39. We have also sought a stronger line of communication directly to Web developers, particularly those in the Web development community who are interested in seeing a continuance to a coherent architecture of the World Wide Web. In order to continue and expand this mission the TAG is peopled by members who come from a diverse range of backgrounds who are put forward by their organizations to help us in this work; to take responsibility for this stewardship by spending their time and energy in benefit of the Web platform.

The TAG is now in an election cycle and one of our long-serving members, Henry Thompson of the University of Edinburgh, will not be standing for another term. We’re sad to see Henry go, but his departure underscores  the importance of the election cycle. As per W3C process, W3C member organizations are responsible for nominating individuals to run in the TAG election. As a co-chair of the TAG, I encourage you to take this opportunity to influence the future make-up and priorities of the TAG. For the last two election cycles, individuals have written position statements, examples of which can be found here, here and here. These position statements have proven very useful even post-election as a way to help shape the agenda of the TAG. Your W3C Advisory Committee representative must make the nomination. Even if you are not affiliated with a W3C member organization, you can still participate in this process if you have a W3C member organization nominate you and if you are able to commit the time and participate in the meetings. The deadline for nominations is 23:59, Boston time on 29 November 2013.

For those of you attending the W3C TPAC week next week in Shenzhen, if you want to ask any questions in person feel free to ask me or one of the other TAG members attending TPAC. We will also be up on stage during the main technical plenary on Wednesday (currently scheduled for 11:00). If you’re not attending TPAC, feel free to get in touch on the public TAG list, by email, Twitter, carrier pigeon or similar.

The Upcoming TAG By-Election

A by-election happens when an office becomes vacant between usually scheduled elections. Such a situation has recently developed in the TAG and we are now in the middle of a special election process to fill a seat vacated by Marcos Caceres, due to his recent affiliation change.  Two candidates have been put forward by their respective organizations: Frederick Hirsch from Nokia and Sergey Konstantinov from Yandex. Under W3C rules, the Advisory Committee representatives of W3C member companies now must vote on one of these two candidates to fill the vacant seat.

We are in the midst of big changes in the TAG. The TAG is under “new management” (Peter Linss and I have recently been appointed as co-chairs, replacing the irreplaceable Noah Mendelsohn) and has a number of new members and new work items. We are reviving the TAG blog as a public mouthpiece for TAG members and place to anchor discussions; we are moving towards doing more work in GitHub and the substance of our work is growing to encompass the interface between JavaScript and HTML5, extensibility of the Web, and the work on a second edition of the original Architecture of the World Wide Web document for which the TAG is probably most famous. This TAG as a new attitude and a new slate of work has at least partially stemmed from the mandate that we perceive to have taken from last year’s TAG election. For example, the candidacy statements for at least two of the new TAG members elected last year (Yehuda Katz and Alex Russell) included increased communication with the Web developer community and increased coordination with bodies such as TC39; the TAG is now working on making good on these commitments.

Both candidates have written blog posts which detail their positions, approach and thoughts on the future of the TAG.

Frederick Hirsch:

Sergey Konstantinov:

If you are a member of an organization that belongs to W3C, then you have a chance to influence this election and the future make-up and work program of the TAG. I encourage you to read these posts and to encourage your Advisory Committee representative to participate in the election. Votes must be cast by Tuesday the 16th of July.