This report was prepared for the May 2018 W3C Advisory Committee Meeting (W3C Member link). See the accompanying W3C Fact Sheet — May 2018. For the previous edition, see the November 2017 W3C Strategic Highlights. For future editions of this report, please consult the latest version.
A Chinese translation is available.
This report gives an overview of recent highlights and work of consolidation, optimization, enhancement of the existing landscape, innovation, incubation, research, and the 2018 W3C Road-map for the Web.
W3C's work enables the Web to scale to meet the new challenges and opportunities while selected technologies and features continue to give way to incredible core innovation once again. Progress in many areas demonstrates both the vitality of the W3C and the Web community. We see the maturation and further development of an incredible number of new technology coming to the Web:
2018 sees the first normative update in a decade of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as WCAG 2.1 will become a W3C Recommendation early June. WCAG 2 has an incredible influence; having been adopted as a regulatory requirement in various countries, and also used widely for business and non-governmental sites, the same is anticipated for WCAG 2.1. Moreover, the European Union is poised to fully adopt WCAG 2.1 during the Summer in its revision of EN 301 549, the Directive for "Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe".
Telecommunications opportunities for the Web. WebRTC is now a cornerstone of the telecommunications industry, that the W3C is extending by adding features such as peer-to-peer data exchange for finalization in 2018. W3C organized the May 2018 Web5G workshop hoping to address under a Web5G plan the opportunities for the Web created by the planned deployment of 5G networks: higher bandwidth, lower latency and better coverage.
Web Authentication at Candidate Recommendation. Proposing to tackle part of the vast security problem on the Internet by eliminating password-dependence. Passwords can be stolen and are frequently reused on many sites, but the Web Authentication API, released in the Spring as a W3C Candidate Recommendation (i.e., feature-complete), provides non-phishable authentication through user-controlled authenticators with site-specific credentials based on public key cryptography.
Testing the Web. The Web Platform Tests suite – a project W3C and its members have given a lot of attention and resources – continues to be very active. The web-platform-tests dashboard, first delivered in 2017 following the integration of automatic generation of test results, will provide a daily snapshot of the evolution of Web interoperability, with continuous improvement. The WebDriver specification, now a W3C Proposed Recommendation which will become a W3C Recommendation in late May, will complement this project by adding additional automatic tests of Web browsers to improve interoperability.
Collaboration with the WHATWG. W3C has been exploring effective partnership mechanisms with the WHATWG for HTML and DOM – a continuation of past efforts – since their recent adoption of a work mode similar to the W3C's.
W3C has a variety of mechanisms for listening to what the community thinks could become good future Web standards. These include discussions with the Membership, discussions with other standards bodies, and the activities of thousands of participants in over 300 community groups. There are lots of good ideas. The W3C strategy team has been identifying promising topics and invites 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. The Funnel view is a GitHub Project in which each new area is an issue represented by a “card” in the stack which move through the columns, usually from left to right. Most issues (cards) start in Exploration and move towards Chartering, 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:
The Strategy Team is considering a number of workshops, on topics including: Permissions and Capabilities; Manga, Comics, Bandes Dessinées - Fixed Layout; Strong Identity; Evolving the Web Platform; Coupons; and Improving Web Advertising.
Recent focus of the CSS Working Group is around flexbox and grid layout, CSS for user interfaces, improved fonts support and the publication of CSS Snapshot 2018, a collection under one definition of all the specifications that form the current state of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
The Houdini Task Force is a joint effort of the CSS Working Group and the Technical Architecture Group (TAG) to develop features that remove the “magic” of Styling and Layout on the Web, making it available for scripting extensions. Current highlights:
The CSS Working Group gathers 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.
What we know as CSS is actually a collection of almost a hundred specifications, referred to as ‘modules’. Even for a big working group like CSS, developing such an extensive technology is stretching its resources. We are looking for:
The SVG Working Group rechartered last Summer with a focus on stabilization of already deployed features, and accessibility improvements. Some new tests have been committed and the group is meeting regularly by telephone. Browser vendors and other implementors are committed to improving interoperability.
Headed to become a Candidate Recommendation towards the Summer, HTML 5.3
provides better integration with specifications like Referrer Policy,
CSP 3 and the Payment Request API (i.e. “
in <iframe>). The Custom Elements APIs, which allow authors to define and use new types of DOM elements in a document, have been incorporated into HTML 5.3 with implementation evidence.
Browser testing plays a critical role in the growth of the Web by:
Since 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. The project is discussing the establishment of a revert policy and is in the process of moving to a new GitHub organization.
After integrating automatic generation of test results, the project released the web-platform-tests dashboard, making it easier to identify and fix interoperability issues, and aiming to provide a daily view of the Web interoperability. Improvements for this dashboard are still ongoing.
A key piece of testing automation is to be able to "run the browser" programmatically, without manual interaction. The Browser Testing and Tools Working Group advanced the Web Driver specification to Proposed Recommendation in the Spring. It will allow additional automatic testing of Web browsers to improve interoperability.
WebAssembly improves Web performance and power by enabling loaded pages to run native (compiled) code.
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 work is divided between the Community Group (969 members) and the Working Group (41 members). Feature prioritization and technology development occurs in the CG; test production and Recommendation Track documents are developed in the WG.
The Web Performance Working Group continues to make progress with its deliverables, continues conversation around the life cycle of Web applications, and keeps refining the performance timeline and the various information available to evaluate the performance of Web applications.
The Server Timing specification, which allows web servers to pass performance timing information via HTTP headers to browsers, is starting to get implementations. This API enables developers to schedule background tasks to execute when the Web browser would otherwise be idle.
The Meltdown and Spectre issues affected the accuracy of the high resolution timer provided by the Performance object. The Working Group continues to evaluate the situation for proper guidance.
One of the challenges for organizations is integration of information systems given the demand for agility in coping with changing requirements and the increasing range and quantity of data available in a variety of formats. The mission of W3C's Data Activity is to overcome the lack of data models and common vocabularies, and facilitate potentially Web-scale data integration and processing, 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.
There is a 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:
The Web is the universal publishing platform. Publishing is increasingly impacted by the Web, and the Web increasingly impacts Publishing.
Topic of particular interest to Publishing@W3C include typography and layout, accessibility, usability, portability, distribution, archiving, offline access, print on demand, and reliable cross referencing.
Notable progress in this space:
To alleviate the problems created by backward compatibility issues, the specification editors proposed to roll back some of the changes in EPUB 3.1. This updated spec would be known as EPUB 3.2. The group has started work with the explicit goal of remaining compatible with all existing EPUB 3.0.1 files, while retaining the best features of EPUB 3.1.
Read Dave Cramer's W3C Blog post for an overview of the ebook ecosystem and rationale for EPUB 3.2 as well as a call for help to join the EPUB 3 Community Group. It’s free, not limited to W3C members, and everyone is welcome. Much of the discussion of technical issues will happen on GitHub.
All major browsers are now implementing Payment Request API to enable streamlined checkout.
Work continues to increase payment security (e.g., through tokenization) and to enable Web-based payment apps. Task forces within the Web Payments Working Group are discussing ways to increase payment security, including looking at encryption, tokenization, enabling 3D Secure flows through Payment Request API. A task force is also looking at credit transfers, especially in light of Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) in Europe.
In March 2018 the group began to operate under its revised charter. In April 2018, following a face-to-face meeting in Singapore, the group's co-Chairs updated the group's priorities for the next year:
Implementation experience from Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Mozilla, Opera, Facebook, American Express, Mastercard, Shopify, Stripe, Worldpay, and others is leading to improvements to the Payment Request API and supporting specifications.
A number of companies that provide services to merchants, including Stripe, Braintree, Shopify, BlueSnap, Payone, and WePay, now provide support for Payment Request API in their SDKs.
The Payment Handler API is currently being implemented in Chrome (see Google's intent to ship in Blink), with Mozilla planning to implement as well. This specification adds Web-based payment handlers to the Payment Request ecosystem.
Google has also implemented the Payment Method Manifest specification. 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.
The Media and Entertainment Interest Group serves as steering committee for the Media and Entertainment activities within W3C to review topics of interest such as TV Control API, Second Screen, Media Capabilities, 360° Videos, Media-Timed Events. The group maintains the Media and Entertainment Road-map. The vision within a year or so is to:
The Web is the Open Platform for Mobile. Telecommunication service providers and network equipment providers have long been critical actors in the deployment of Web technologies to the public at large. The convergence of Web and mobile industries is now fully in march, driven by the convergence of the underlying technologies to IP-based systems. As the Web platform matures, it brings to service providers richer and richer capabilities to extend their existing services to new users and devices, and propose new and innovative services to their subscribers. The April 2018 edition of the Roadmap of Web Applications on Mobile explores the technologies developed in W3C that increase the capabilities of Web applications in mobile contexts.
Now that IT and Telcos industry have converged, more coordination and cooperation is needed. What's next for Telecommunication on the Web?
Important milestones last year contributed to making the Web platform great for VR experiences: WebVR 1.1 is now available by default in a few browsers (notably Firefox since its version 55), and as an experimental feature in many more (including Chrome and Edge). In parallel to the development and adoption of WebVR 1.1, a major rewrite of WebVR was started to take into account a number of design issues that had emerged.
2017 was also a year with many announcements enabling more robust usage of Augmented Reality technologies (notably, ARCore and ARKit on mobile operating systems), and the WebVR community eagerly experimented with these new capabilities to see how the Web could become a major platform for augmented reality.
This combination the WebVR specification rewrite and the need to prepare for Augmented and Mixed Reality experiences have led the WebVR Community Group to change its name, reflecting a new scope: it is now known as the Immersive Web Community Group, with a scope encompassing not only Virtual Reality, but also Augmented and Mixed Reality. In the same vein, what had been known as WebVR 2 has now become the WebXR Device API.
Discussions with the Community Group on transitioning that work to the Recommendation track are still ongoing.
The planned deployment of 5G, the fifth generation networks, in the upcoming few years is creating a set of challenges and opportunities for the Web Platform to adjust to these new network capabilities: higher bandwidth, lower latency and better coverage than today’s networks – a need the W3C hopes to address under a Web5G plan:
Will they work together or against one another?
W3C organized the May 2018 Web5G workshop to gather representatives from telecommunication operators, network equipment vendors, platform and application developers, and browser vendors in order to look at the intersection of the evolution of network- and application- layers.
WebRTC has reshaped the whole communication landscape by making any connected device a potential communication end-point, bringing audio and video communications anywhere, on any network, vastly expanding the ability of operators to reach their customers. WebRTC 1.0 reached Candidate Recommendation last November, indicating the stability of this specification which now serves as a corner-stone of many on-line communication and collaboration services.
The WebRTC Working Group and W3C members are providing input on the future of WebRTC by assessing a new charter to finish existing work and consider new use cases and extensions identified as needed in the existing deployments of the technology.
The Internet of Things creates immense opportunities through connected sensors and actuators, big data, machine learning and integration of services on a Web scale, however fragmentation is limiting the IoT's full potential. An ever 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 to allow devices to work together independent of their underlying technology stack and thus to achieve scale. Primarily, it provides mechanisms to formally describe IoT interfaces to allow IoT devices and services to communicate with each other and across multiple networking protocols. Secondarily, it provides a standardized way to define and program IoT behavior. W3C is focusing on standards for the interface between applications and application platforms, as well as the standards needed to enable open marketplaces on the scale of the Web. By contrast, OCF, oneM2M, Bluetooth, and OPC, are focused on standards for particular IoT platforms.
The Web of Things Working Group develops cross domain standards for thing descriptions, APIs and integration with IoT platforms in collaboration with the corresponding organizations, and is looking for help from industry experts in regards to use cases, API design, security and semantic modeling, as well as people involved in standards for IoT platforms.
Notable progress in this space:
The W3C Automotive Working Group is working to deliver a service specification for exposing vehicle signals (fuel level, speed, engine temperature, etc.):
This service approach has a number of advantages over an earlier WebIDL-based approach including being usable by both QT and HTML5 developers as well as headless applications running on the vehicle. It is also similar to how others in the industry have been approaching exposing vehicle signals. The Volkswagen Group joined W3C and made their similar approach (ViWi) a W3C Member Submission.
The working group is in the process of rechartering to complete VISS, and work on an approach that converges with the Volkswagen ViWi submission and provides additional service interfaces.
Current open standards work in automotive is useful to normalize vehicle signals for consistent data collection across mixed fleets, edge computing, data sampling before sending to the cloud for processing, combined with security and privacy requirements.
We have formed a joint task torce with the W3C Web Commerce Interest Group, the Automotive Web Payments Task Force, to focus on automotive specific needs to handle fuel/charging, usage, parking and other types of transactions on behalf of a vehicle. Other areas of interest for exploration include standardizing around traffic and weather data but work has not started yet.
The Automotive and Web Platform Business Group, which acts as an incubator for prospective standards work, has a number of task forces:
The recent advancement of Web Authentication (WebAuthn) to W3C Candidate Recommendation –and the commitment of leading browser vendors to implement– and completion of the FIDO2 standardization efforts enable users to login easily to online services with desktop or mobile devices with phishing-resistant security.
WebAuthn, a standard web API to give users new methods to securely authenticate across sites and devices, has been developed in the in Web Authentication Working Group in coordination with FIDO Alliance and is a core component of the FIDO2 Project along with FIDO’s Client to Authenticator Protocol (CTAP) specification, which enables an external authenticator, such as a security key or a mobile phone, to communicate strong authentication credentials locally over USB, Bluetooth or NFC to the user’s computer or tablet.
Awareness around privacy issues is increasing. The EU General Data Protection Regulation goes into effect on May 25 with a mandate to protect and empower all EU citizens’ data privacy. W3C's Tracking Preference Expression (DNT) is a potential part of the solution.
The Web Application Security Working Group has many active specifications aiming to improve the security of the web, including CSP3, Credential Management, Permissions API, Mixed Content, Referrer Policy, Secure Contexts, Confinement with Origin Web Labels, and Clear Site Data. Many are complete or near-complete and would benefit from interoperability testing. Mike West from Google joined continuing co-chair Dan Veditz (Mozilla). We thank Brad Hill (Facebook) for his past service.
Horizontal reviews for privacy and security are being done in two different ways, and we would love more participants from security and/or privacy experts:
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.
The Verifiable Claims Working Group (VCWG) published Verifiable Claims Data Model and Representations and Verifiable Claims Use Cases for what are really "verifiable credentials" - encrypted pieces of information, such as, "this person is over 18" or "this person attends such-and-such a college", that a third party holds for the user and can release on the user's explicit request to specific parties, using Distributed IDentifiers to say which piece to release.
Only around a quarter of current Web users use English online. 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. For an overview of current projects see the i18n radar.
W3C's Internationalization efforts progressed on a number of fronts recently:
For the Web to truly work for stakeholders all around the world, there must be a collaboration of language experts, Web site designers, developers, and vendors who are active in moving the Web forward. To ensure a rapid response to the growth of the Web, W3C wants to marshal the resources of organizations and experts who care about these problems and enlist their help in strengthening internationalization support for the Web.
W3C is looking to supplement the core funding it receives from W3C Member fees to increase in-house resources dedicated to this work as well as accelerate progress in this area. Under an Internationalization Initiative a sponsorship program is designed to provide participants and funding to address three main aspects of the internationalization continuum:
|Stakeholders||Governments, Publishers, User communities,…||W3C Working Groups, Application developers,…||Content authors & developers, localizers,…|
|Typical activities||Gap analysis & prioritization
|Guidelines & checklists
A billion people in the world have disabilities—one out of every seven—according to the World Report on Disabilities. Helping build accessibility-supporting specifications, guidelines, evaluation and educational materials helps ensure that your own organization is improving access to the Web for people with disabilities.
Learn why accessibility is essential for people with disabilities and useful for all: watch the Video Introduction to Web Accessibility and W3C Standards (4 minutes).
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 groups and areas of W3C. Notable progress include: