This report was prepared for the November 2017 W3C Advisory Committee Meeting (W3C Member link). See the accompanying W3C Fact Sheet — November 2017. For the previous edition, see the April 2017 W3C highlights. For future editions of this report, please consult the latest version.
Our April 2017 report highlighted how the Web continues to transform business and has grown to be the technical infrastructure for Society. In addition, we described how W3C's work enables the Web to scale to meet new challenges and opportunities.
Since April, W3C has chartered new work and made progress in the areas of excellence of the W3C Vision:
A strong emphasis in this report is on the core of the Web and how selected technologies and features amount to incredible core innovation once again, while our strategy and organization support such advances, meeting Industry needs, and fostering a Web for all.
W3C has a variety of mechanisms for listening to what the community thinks could make for good future Web standards. These include discussions with the Membership, discussions with other standards bodies, and the activities of thousands of engineers in nearly 300 community groups. There are lots of good ideas. The W3C strategy team has been experimenting with ways to identify promising topics while inviting public participation.
The Strategy Funnel documents the staff's exploration of potential new work at various phases: Exploration and Investigation, Incubation and Evaluation, and eventually to the chartering of a new standards group.
A quick word on the Funnel view: it is a GitHub Project view in which each new area is an issue represented by a “card” in the stack. Cards move through the columns, usually from left to right. Most issues (cards) start in Exploration and move forward or move out of the funnel.
Public input is welcome at any stage but particularly once Incubation has begun. This helps W3C identify work that is sufficiently incubated to warrant standardization, to review the ecosystem around the work and indicate interest in participating in its standardization, and then to draft a charter that reflects an appropriate scope. Ongoing feedback can speed up the overall standardization process.
Since the previous highlights document, W3C has chartered a number of groups:
W3C has started early work on a new communications initiative that we're calling W3C Stories, to complement key W3C technical work — in particular our focus on strengthening the core of the Web — and to increase and sustain the widest possible engagement in that technical work. The W3C Stories plans include doing outreach to collect stories from the W3C membership, the industry, and the wider community about real-world problems and needs of Web users, and the key W3C technologies that are solving those problems and addressing those needs.
The initial W3C Stories work centers around WebAssembly, with the plan that the W3C Stories effort for WebAssembly will help attract interested parties to get together at the W3C to, for example, explore possibilities for new standard technologies build on top of WebAssembly — and with the plan that after modeling W3C Stories for WebAssembly, we'll move on to expanding the effort to other key W3C technologies currently in development — again, with a particular focus on the technologies we've identified for strengthening the core of the Web.
Through grass roots innovation in many areas; and through new use cases (aka W3C Stories) we are undergoing a sea change of enhancement to the core of the Web. We are beginning conversations on how to characterize that change and will be having a conversation about that with the W3C Membership at TPAC 2017.
To strengthen our focus, W3C anticipates a 2 or 3-year cycle to iterate on key strengths of the core of the Web, lower-level foundational technologies and emerging ideas (see below).
Browser testing plays a critical role in the growth of the Web by:
Starting in 2014 W3C began work on a coordinated open-source effort to build a cross-browser test suite for the Web Platform: Web-Platform-Tests. Web-Platform Test has been adopted by W3C, WHATWG, and all major browsers. And this year we integrated automatic generation of test results in the web-platform-tests dashboard. This progress should make it easier to identify and fix interoperability issues. With continuing improvement, it will provide a daily view of the Web interoperability progress.
A key piece of testing automation involves being able to "run the browser" programmatically, without manual interaction. The Browser Testing and Tools Working Group expects to advance the Web Driver specification to Recommendation in the coming weeks. It will allow additional automatic testing of Web browsers to improve interoperability.
With a Candidate Recommendation last Summer, the HTML 5.2 version which provides better integration with specifications like Referrer Policy, CSP 3 and the Payment Request API, is headed to the final step leading to Recommendation. In parallel, the Web Platform Working Group continues discussions on HTML 5.3, the future release of HTML.
The Web Platform Working Group was recently rechartered to further its mission to expand the HTML language and provide specifications that enable improved client-side application development on the Web, including application programming interfaces (APIs) for client-side development and markup vocabularies for describing and controlling client-side application behavior.
The work on Service Workers and Background synchronization has moved to a dedicated Service Workers Working Group that W3C launched early August to enable Web applications to take advantage of persistent background processing, including hooks to enable bootstrapping of web applications while offline.
There is a healthy engagement and interest in the rest of the group's efforts and other focus and progress includes DOM and Encoding.
Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) — The Official (2017) Definition:
The Working Group is gathering requirements from two large groups of CSS users: the publishing industry and application developers. Within W3C, those groups are exemplified by the Publishing groups and the Web Platform Working Group. The former requires things like better pagination support and advanced font handling, the latter needs intelligent (and fast!) scrolling and animations.
An interesting recent development is the establishment of the Advanced Publishing Laboratory at Keio University (Tokyo), with which the CSS WG has and hopes to maintain good contacts. Their goal is to study the needs of electronic publishing, especially in Asian languages, something that the CSS WG (with other groups in W3C, in particular I18N), has also worked on for quite some time. The CSS Writing Modes module is one of the outcomes.
In addition to current work, CSS 2018 candidates include:
Spurred by the promising work achieved in the WebAssembly W3C Community Group, notably on the draft specification they developed, W3C chartered a Web Assembly Working Group last August with a mission to standardize a size- and load-time-efficient format and execution environment, allowing compilation to the Web with consistent behavior across a variety of implementations.
Web Assembly improves Web performance and power by enabling loaded pages to run native (compiled) code. Primary use-cases are:
All major browsers — Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and WebKit — are implementing the specification, a reflection of community excitement as well as viability of the approach.
The WebAssembly W3C Community Group continues to develop new technology and serve as a proving ground for candidates for standardization in the Working Group. It explores features such as threads, managed object (garbage collection) support, direct DOM/JS bindings, parallel processing (SIMD), memory mapping, access to >4GB memory.
The Web Performance Working Group continues to make progress with its deliverables. More recently, the Cooperative Scheduling of Background Tasks (RIC) specification advanced to Proposed Recommendation status. This API enables developers to schedule background tasks to execute when the Web browser would otherwise be idle.
The group continues to look at application lifecycle and opportunities for performance enhancements. One example is to enable developers to restrict capabilities (e.g., access to memory or CPU) of applications running in the background to help ensure that applications in the foreground provide a great user experience.
One of the challenges for organizations is integration of information systems, both within and across enterprises, given the demand for agility in coping with the inevitability of changing requirements. It is not enough to exchange data, you also need to ensure that providers and consumers agree on the meaning of that data. Using and integrating diverse data sources is challenging due to the lack of data models and common vocabularies. The mission of W3C's Data Activity is to facilitate potentially Web-scale data integration and processing. It does this by providing standard data exchange formats, models, tools, and guidance. This builds upon W3C’s previous work on RDF and Linked Data, and the corresponding suite of W3C Recommendations, e.g. for RDF, OWL, and SPARQL.
Note the relationship to the Web of Things, where W3C is seeking to define standards for an object model as an abstraction layer over existing IoT standards, using programming language independent descriptions of things and their relationships.
Notable progress in this space:
Through grass roots innovation in many areas; and through new use cases (aka W3C Stories) we are undergoing a sea change of enhancement to the core of the Web, which, given a 2 or 3-year cycle we can iterate on — key strengths of the core of the Web, lower-level foundational technologies and emerging ideas:
||Allow developers to extend browser features.||Extensible Web||the original focus of post-HTML 5 work.|
||Adding flexibility for offline support and performance enhancements via background tasks.||Extensible and performant Web||adding the focus on performance.|
||Custom, reusable, encapsulated HTML tags.||Progressive (Web | Web applications)||to capture the theme of instant loading to give app type performance.|
||Blazing speed that exploits hardware capabilities.||Flexible platform||to capture the wide variety of usages of the platform.|
||A framework for performance management.||HTML 6||Because we have always used numbers in the past.|
||Step-up in security.||Application Foundations||Each capability (e.g. video, performance, payments) represents a different foundational capability for the platform.|
||Bring e-commerce into a standard framework.|
|MSE||A well developed media subsystem and APIs.|
|WebVR||Bring Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality into the Web.||Immersive Web||to characterize how users will most experience the new set of capabilities.|
Virtual reality is progressing at full speed, with a number of initial products reaching the market. The Web provides a promising preexisting ecosystem for the creation, distribution, and experiencing of VR content, applications, and services. In leveraging the Open Web Platform, we hope to provide an interoperability to avoid fragmentation and duplicated effort.
After an October 2016 Workshop on Web and Virtual Reality (read the report) work continued on a WebVR API specification, developed by the WebVR Community Group. In July 2017 the WebVR Working Group charter brought to Advisory Committee review in July 2017 did not gather sufficient support. While several W3C Members expressed support, some key participants in the WebVR W3C Community Group pointed out that standardization would be improved if the CG further incubated the work in light of possible scope evolutions.
The W3C staff continues to track the work of the WebVR Community Group closely until a clearer path to standardization emerges. In addition, W3C is exploring a broad AR workshop in 2018, and has organized a Workshop on WebVR Authoring that will take place 5-7 December 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. The primary goal of the workshop is to bring together WebVR stakeholders to identify unexploited opportunities as well as technical gaps in WebVR authoring.
The WebRTC API, a critical piece of making the Web a full-fledged communication platform and bringing P2P networking to the Web, is on track to Recommendation with a Candidate Recommendation in the Fall.
Widely deployed across browsers, WebRTC has turned capabilities that required multi-million dollars investments into a feature that can be adopted by anyone for any number of services, most notably being one link away from starting a meeting, without the need to install plugins or native apps.
Admittedly one of the most complex subsystem of the Web platform, the work has benefited from close and productive cooperation between W3C and IETF. A strong focus and lots of attention was brought to security and privacy concerns.
Until WebRTC becomes the standard, the WebRTC Working Group will focus on testing, address remaining issues following implementation feedback and tend to other features needed and WebRTC NV, which the group will discuss at the November W3C Technical Plenary meeting.
The Web is the universal publishing platform. W3C taking into account numerous digital publishing priorities across a variety of standards. Topic of particular interest include typography and layout, accessibility, usability, portability, distribution, archiving, offline access, and reliable cross referencing. In May 2017 the Digital Publishing Interest Group published Web Publications Use Cases and Requirements to shed light on Web capabilities needed to support a wide range of use cases.
To further ensure the W3C standardization agenda supports these topics, W3C launched the Publishing Working Group in June 2017. In October the group published an Editor's Draft of Web Publications, which defines a collection of information that describes the structure of Web Publications, so that user agents or developers may create user experiences well-suited to reading publications, such as sequential navigation and offline reading. This information includes the default reading order, a list of resources, and publication-wide metadata.
To continue to build W3C's publishing community and hear trends and requirements, on 9-10 November 2017 W3C holds its first Publishing Summit to discuss how web technologies are shaping publishing. From schools to libraries, from design to production to archiving, from metadata to analytics to AI, from New York to Paris to Buenos Aires to Tokyo, summit speakers will show how web technologies are making publishing more accessible, more global, and more efficient.
Poor Web checkout experiences —especially on mobile— create user frustration and lead to shopping cart abandonment. To improve the situation, W3C is developing standards that enable a new feature in browsers: a streamlined checkout experience, enabling a consistent user experience across the Web with lower front end development costs for merchants. Rather than retyping shipping addresses, contact information, payment credentials, and other information again and again across the Web, users can store and reuse information and more quickly and accurately complete online transactions.
The main piece of news since the previous highlights report is that all major browser vendors have begun to implement the Payment Request API, which advanced to Candidate Recommendation in September.
In May, the Working Group published a first draft of of Payment App API to enable users to make payments in the new ecosystem from Web-based payment apps. The Working Group is also preparing to publish a Payment Method Manifest specification as a First Public Working Draft. This specification enables payment method owners to authorize software from different domains to fulfill the payment method, an important security consideration in the payment app ecosystem.
Task forces within the WPWG are discussing a variety of payment methods beyond Basic Card Payment: card tokenization and credit transfers.
W3C, Google, Mastercard, and Airbnb demonstration of progress on these standards at Money 20/20 on 23 October.
The Working Group’s charter expires at the end of the year, so the group plans to discuss "new features" for Payment Request API at its November face-to-face meeting.
HTML5 brought audio and video to the Web. Standardization activities since then have aimed at turning the Web into a professional-grade platform fully suitable for the delivery of media content and associated materials. W3C has recently completed work on adaptive streaming (via Media Source Extensions) and content protection (via Encrypted Media Extensions). All major browser vendors support these specifications.
In June W3C rechartered the Media and Entertainment Interest Group. The scope of the group now covers Web technologies used in the end-to-end pipeline. This includes capture, production, distribution and consumption of continuous media: videos, sound recordings, and their associated technologies. One of the first tasks of the Interest Group has been to identify a path forward for the work that had been started in the TV Control Working Group on a TV Control API. Although the Working Group closed down for lack of industry support, a number of Members are still interested in the topic. Work may resume on the API, though perhaps with a more limited scope.
The Timed Text Working Group develops and maintains formats used for the representation of text synchronized with other timed media. Two of its specifications are expected to advance soon to Candidate Recommendation: Timed Text Markup Language 2 (TTML2) and Web Video Text Tracks format (WebVTT). The group also recently revised the Candidate Recommendation of TTML Profiles for Internet Media Subtitles and Captions 1.0.1 and published a new Group Note: note (Using the ITU BT.2100 PQ EOTF with the PNG Format). That specification defines a mechanism for storing images that use the Reference PQ EOTF specified in BT.2100 in PNG images.
The Second Screen Working Group develops features to close the gap between the Web and existing TV platforms, which is achieved through the Presentation API and the Remote Playback API. The Presentation API is expected to advance shortly to Proposed Recommendation while the Remote Playback API will soon transition to Candidate Recommendation. In parallel, the Second Screen Community Group has made progress recently about an Open Screen Protocol to improve interoperability between screens across implementations.
Finally, the Web Media API Community Group launched a year ago to define a common baseline for HTML5 suitable for Web media applications and corresponding devices (TV sets, set-top boxes, game machines, mobile devices), to help reduce the cost of producing content that works across a variety of devices. The group is incubating the Web Media API Snapshot 2017 and developing Web Media Guidelines to provide guidance to developers of media web applications. The expectation is that after further incubation, this work will advance to a Working Group. The Community Group collaborates with the CTA WAVE Project.
Although the Internet of Things creates immense opportunities through connected sensors and actuators, big data, machine learning and integration of services on a Web scale, fragmentation is limiting the IoT's full potential. A rapidly increasing number of IoT platforms and technologies with limited interoperability are hindering some investments, making it hard for IoT to reach "critical mass." W3C's Web of Things work is designed to bridge disparate technology stacks in order to allow devices to work together independent of their underlying technology stack and thus achieve scale. Primarily, it provides mechanisms to formally describe IoT interfaces to allow IoT devices and services to communicate with each other, independent of their underlying implementation, and across multiple networking protocols. Secondarily, it provides a standardized way to define and program IoT behavior.
In January 2017 W3C launched the Web of Things Working Group to develop cross domain standards for thing descriptions, APIs and integration with IoT platforms in collaboration with the corresponding organizations. In September the group published three specifications:
Browser ubiquity on a wide range of devices, open standards with a large developer base, and powerful capabilities make the Web a valuable platform for in-vehicle systems.
The W3C Automotive Working Group was launched at the end of 2016 to make it easier to build in-vehicle applications through APIs that expose vehicle signals: fuel level, speed, engine temperature, and so on. Both Vehicle Information Service Specification and Vehicle Information API Specification advancement toward CR is under discussion, and are being implemented, and benefit from a supporting test suite. The Working Group's service approach is usable by both QT and HTML5 developers, and supports headless applications running on the vehicle.
In parallel, the Automotive and Web Platform Business Group has launched several task forces to identify new standardization needs:
Other areas of interest for exploration include standardizing around traffic and weather data but work has not started yet.
For many Web users, passwords are annoying to use and offer weak protection for their interactions —they're too often forgotten or set to weak, and easily-guessed combinations. Even strong passwords can be lost in data breaches or targeted for replay in phishing attacks. The Web Authentication API provides unphishable authentication, typically using hardware security devices. This can be used to replace or augment username/password-based authentication. The specification is expected to advance to Candidate Recommendation before the end of 2017. In October W3C rechartered the Web Authentication Working Group to develop the next version of the technology.
The Web Application Security WG rechartered for another two years. It continues work on CSP3, Mixed Content, Upgrade Insecure Requests, and Referrer Policy, Credential Management, Permissions API, Clear site data.
From educational records to payment account access, the next generation of Web applications will authorize entities to perform actions based on rich sets of credentials issued by trusted parties. Human- and machine-mediated decisions about job applications, account access, collaboration, and professional development will depend on filtering and analyzing growing amounts of data. It is essential that data be verifiable.
A verifiable claim is a statement such as “I have a driving license and I'm over 18 years old” that might be needed with reliable confirmation from a third party before supplying adult content or before renting a car or authorizing a student loan. The mission of the Verifiable Claims Working Group (VCWG), which was created earlier this year, is to make expressing and exchanging claims that have been verified by a third party easier and more secure on the Web.
In June the Working Group published Verifiable Claims Use Cases for areas such as finance, education, healthcare, and retail. In August, the group published a First Public Working Draft of Verifiable Claims Data Model and Representations, which provides a standard way to express claims on the Web in a way that is cryptographically secure, privacy respecting, and automatically verifiable.
Only around a quarter of current Web users use English online and that proportion will continue to decrease as the Web reaches more and more communities of limited English proficiency. If the Web is to live up to the "World Wide" portion of its name, it must support the needs of world-wide users as they engage with content in the various languages. The growth of epublishing also brings requirements for new features and improved typography on the Web, and it is important to ensure that those changes capture the needs of local communities.
The W3C Internationalization activities pursue this goal by gathering user requirements, supporting developers, and education & outreach. Requirements gathering needs to include both the documenting of requirements for specific scripts and languages, and efforts to analyse the gaps in technologies that exist or are currently in development. '''Developer support''' includes reviews, discussion and advice for WGs (and sometimes for external initiatives at the Unicode Consortium or the IETF, etc), and the preparation of guidelines and checklists that WGs can use to do self-review or self-education, as well as projects that focus on a specific technological problem, as the need arises. For '''education and outreach''' we develop articles to help people such as content authors understand and use the i18n features that are available, we contribute i18n advice to courses, maintain an i18n checker for authors to use with web pages, deliver talks at conferences, etc. For an overview of current projects see the i18n project radar.
W3C's Internationalization efforts progressed on number of fronts recently:
The I18N activity supports developers in a variety of ways including through specification reviews. The I18N Working published Requirements for Language and Direction Metadata in Data Formats, which lays out issues and discusses potential solutions for passing information about language and direction with strings in JSON or other data formats. The group also published How to engage with the i18n WG for assistance and reviews. This explains how WGs and the i18n Activity can come together to ensure that internationalization issues are spotted and dealt with in developing technologies. In addition, it's now easier to find useful links from the Internationalization Home Page. It's also now possible to put a copy of our self-review checklist in a github issue and fill it out so that the information can be shared and tracked. The Working Group also published Ready-made Counter Styles as WG Note. This provides CSS templates for numbering lists or chapter headings, etc, in a range of styles representing many different writing systems.
The I18N WG also published the following new articles:
A billion people in the world have disabilities—one out of every seven—according to the World Report on Disabilities. Helping build W3C’s accessibility-supporting specifications, guidelines, evaluation and educational materials can help you ensure that your own organization is improving access to the Web for people with disabilities, and increase accessible technology options for other W3C Members and the public to implement.
Accessibility activities support W3C’s Web for All mission. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) continues to help ensure a cohesive package of coordinated accessibility activities, distributed throughout the functional management areas of W3C.
The Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) WG continues reviewing all W3C specifications, and following up with W3C groups as needed on accessibility barriers. The APA WG is developing an accessibility checklist for specification developers to pre-check their specifications for potential accessibility issues early in the development process, before APA review, with more detailed guidance available.
The APA's Research Questions Task Force (RQTF) is investigating several topics identified in the course of APA accessibility reviews, including accessible authentication strategies, virtual and augmented reality, and accessibility use cases for Web of Things.
The Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AG WG) has been focusing on the development of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, an update to WCAG 2.0. An important goal for WCAG 2.1 is to maintain compatibility with WCAG 2.0. New success criteria that have been added to the Working Draft will expand coverage for low vision users, users with cognitive and learning disabilities, and mobile users with accessibility requirements. Currently WCAG 2.1 is scheduled for completion by June 2018. AG WG invites feedback on WCAG drafts, and particularly support in the development of implementation techniques and implementation testing in the near future.
Part of AG WG is also the Accessibility Conformance Testing Task Force (ACT TF). After initial incubation in the Auto-WCAG Community Group, ACT TF is developing the ACT Rules Format 1.0 specification as common format for test rules, and collecting ACT Test Rules contributed by Members and the community.
A "Silver" Task Force continues to explore stakeholder requirements for post-WCAG 2.1 work on accessibility guidelines.
WAI staff participates in several activities to support international harmonization and coordination of accessibility standards, and to promote W3C specifications and resources in these context. Some of these activities include:
The Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG) recently updated its List of Web Accessibility Laws and Policies, to help support visibility and awareness on the current support for W3C accessibility standards internationally.
The Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG) has been updating resources that explain the why, what and how of accessibility guidelines, to address needs of the diverse audiences for WCAG and other W3C specifications, which includes non-technical as well as technical audiences. Recently updated resources include: the reference list Web Accessibility Laws and Policies, and WAI Tutorials.
Accessible Rich Internet Applications 1.0 (WAI-ARIA) provides roles, states, and properties that can be used to improve the accessibility and interoperability of web content and applications for people with disabilities. An updated version, ARIA 1.1 is nearing Candidate Recommendation completion, and expands the capabilities of ARIA 1.0 by adding new features to improve interoperability with assistive technologies to form a more consistent accessibility model for HTML5 and SVG2. Recently updated supporting materials for ARIA include Digital Publishing WAI-ARIA Model 1.1; HTML Accessibility API Mappings 1.0; WAI-ARIA Authoring Practices 1.1; and Editors' updates of Core Accessibility API Mappings 1.1 and Notes on using ARIA in HTML.
In April 2017 W3C introduced a "Front-End Web Developer" (FEWD) Certificate program composed of 5 MOOC courses:
Three courses created in partnership with Microsoft form part of Microsoft's Professional Program Certificate in Front-End Web Development.
W3C is involved through liaisons and coordination with many peer organizations, in order to:
Recent liaisons activities include:
This is once again a time of change for the Web. Elements of the Open Web Platform meet users and Industry needs. W3C is embarking on the next transformation of the Web through grass roots innovation in many areas and studying how the Web can solve arising problems for real people. Our vision of the Web for 2020 and beyond encompasses long-resident Web Applications, extending browser features, offline support, app-like performance, a flexible platform accommodating Digital Publishing, payments, video distribution, games, and immersive experiences.