This report, dated 5 October, 2020, was prepared for the October 2020 Virtual W3C Advisory Committee Meeting (W3C Member link). See the accompanying W3C Fact Sheet — October 2020. For the previous edition, see the May 2020 W3C Strategic Highlights. For future editions of this report, please consult the latest version.
A Chinese translation is available.
In our last report we expressed concern about the COVID-19 pandemic, the welfare of the planet and the impact for the Web Consortium.
Our concern about the welfare of everyone continues but we were gratified to not been impacted too much as an organization. Respecting the importance of social distancing, we prioritized the needs of people first and quickly suspended all work-related travel, operating completely remotely the most vital work we do with our community –creating Web standards. We successfully converted our physical meetings and workshops to virtual ones, fully tapping into the capabilities of the Web we have been leading to its full potential for over 25 years.
Indeed, the 2020 global pandemic accelerated a trend for the world to go more virtual, making the Web even more critical to society –in information sharing, commerce, real-time communications, entertainment, and many more. The Web has also grown in importance to industries conducting business online, and recognizing this, numerous players have joined the Consortium to further standardization work in video communications, media, publishing, financial services, ad technology, among other areas.
These trends demand responsiveness and agility from the Web Consortium's standardization processes and practices. In September of this year, the 2020 updates of the W3C Process Document and Patent Policy became effective. They aim to give a real boost to building the Web.
These timely updates generally increase our responsiveness and strengthen our standardization activities by adding, among other changes, a continuous standard development mode that includes a living standard approach, and earlier Royalty-Free protection for implementers, which reinforces access to the Web's technology as common infrastructure.
This year has also seen the first update to our Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct (CEPC), since its introduction in 2015. W3C's CEPC defines accepted and acceptable behaviors and promotes high standards of professional practice. This code provides a benchmark, affords transparency in community and group management, ensures an environment where people can participate without fear of harassment, and contributes to the identity of our organization.
This report highlights recent work to enhance the Web platform, and innovate for its growth and strength. The work accomplished by the W3C Community builds on top of the core work done on the Internet, giving us the Web: a tool that has and will continue to accelerate scientific cooperation and discoveries, a social means to bridge families and friends, a way to learn online and grow skills, an instrument to conduct successful business, and much more.
W3C uses a variety of mechanisms to engage community discussion on future Web standards: conversations with the Membership, liaising with other standards bodies, tracking the activity of thousands of participants in over 355 W3C community groups, and hosting W3C Workshops. There are lots of good ideas. The W3C strategy team works to identifying promising topics for standardization and invites public participation.
Workshops bring communities together around presentations, panels, breakouts, and virtual "hallway" sessions to spur collaboration on new work areas. While switching to virtual entails a change in mode and some re-setting of schedules, we envision that distributed meetings can be even more accessible and globally participatory.
Workshops under consideration include:
Recently completed Workshop:
The Strategy Funnel documents the Web Consortium staff's exploration of potential new work at Incubation and Evaluation, and eventually to the chartering of a new standards group. The Funnel view is a GitHub Project where new area are issues represented by “cards” which move through the columns, usually from left to right. Most 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, extended and proposed the following groups:
The W3C Team has sent an advance notice for the draft charter being prepared for a new Decentralized Web Interest Group, with a mission "to evolve recommendations to further the W3C’s One Web purpose by identifying, balancing and mitigating the unintended impacts of proposals early in the process, encouraging uniform change, and promoting OpenStand principles." The proposed Interest Group anticipates beginning its work by taking up two draft documents that have been produced by participants in the Improving Web Advertising Business Group.
The participants in the 16-29 September 2020 W3C Workshop on Web & Machine Learning recommended the creation of a new Web Machine Learning Working Group to build a standard based on the Web Neural Network API. The W3C Team has sent an advance notice for the draft charter being prepared.
W3C's payments standards enable a streamlined checkout process, giving a consistent user experience across the Web with lower front-end development costs for merchants. Users can store and reuse information and more quickly and accurately complete online transactions.
Two trends are currently shaping the work:
These changes have a direct impact on the payments industry. Regulatory bodies around the world (e.g., PSD2 in Europe) increasingly require strong (multi-factor) customer authentication. In addition, transaction risk assessment on the Web often relies on fingerprinting, so current approaches are expected to break as browser behavior evolves.
FIDO and EMVCo are discussing how Web Authentication data may be provided as input to an EMV 3-D Secure flow. The Web Payments Working Group, the joint task force with WebAuthn, and the Web Payment Security Interest Group are discussing multiple proposals to streamline checkout by smoothly integrating Web Authentication along with payment instrument selection. Secure Payment Confirmation is one such proposal that has drawn the interest of multiple stakeholders. The group's expectation is that Stripe and Google will conduct experiments in Q3 and Q4 2020 to test the hypothesis that users appreciate a streamlined low-friction flow where Web Authentication is used as the "Step-Up" during a 3-D Secure authentication flow, rather than the usual one-time password approach. The Web Payments Working Group is also looking at how Secure Payment Confirmation might be used in the context of EMV® Secure Remote Commerce, open banking, real-time payments, and other use cases.
W3C is launching a Merchant Business Group to address challenges for customer experiences and business needs using Web technologies, where merchants, integrators, platform providers, and others will discuss how emerging Web technologies could help address customer experience challenges, and what additional Web capabilities may be necessary.
The Web is the universal publishing platform. Publishing is increasingly impacted by the Web, and the Web increasingly impacts Publishing. Topic of particular focus of Publishing@W3C include typography and layout, accessibility, usability, portability, distribution, archiving, offline access, print on demand, and reliable cross referencing. And the diverse publishing community represented in the groups consist of the traditional "trade" publishers, ebook reading system manufacturers, but also publishers of audiobooks, scholarly journals or educational materials, library scientists or browser developers.
W3C launched the EPUB 3 Working Group in August 2020 to maintain, develop and clarify the EPUB 3 family of specifications, to represent the EPUB community in W3C, and to support EPUB 3 content creators and consumers. An important outcome of the group is to significantly increase the interoperability of EPUB publications and reading systems. The rigorous W3C process of testing will make a cleaner, clearer, more easily-implemented EPUB 3 specification.
The Publishing Working Group concentrates on Audiobooks which lack a comprehensive standard, thus incurring extra costs and time to publish in this booming market. Active development is ongoing on the future standard, aiming for a final publication by year-end:
The Publishing Business Group ran and published the main conclusions of the EPUB and Digital Publishing survey: Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond.
The Media and Entertainment activity tracks and standardizes media-related capabilities and features needed to create immersive experiences. HTML5, TTML and TTML profiles, WebVTT, brought standard audio, video and captions to the Web and have revolutionized the media pipeline and media consumption worldwide, turning the Web into a professional platform fully suitable for the delivery of media content.
Current goals are 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. As the Web platform matures, it brings richer and richer capabilities to extend existing services to new users and devices, and propose new and innovative services.
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 serves as the corner-stone of many online communication and collaboration services.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown both how critical WebRTC already is in a world where travel and physical contacts need to be limited, as well as the many improvements that can be brought to the technology to cater to new usages that have emerged.
The WebRTC Working Group, whose charter was renewed for two years, continues its intense efforts toward publishing WebRTC 1.0 (and companion specification Media Capture and Streams) to Recommendation, aiming for year-end.
Zoom recently joined W3C as well as the Facebook Messenger team, putting the Working Group in en even better position to ensure the Web keeps fulfilling its critical role in supporting society as it needs virtual interactions more than ever.
Shared data associated with transportation has great potential for improving the user experience, with opportunities to offer enhanced information, entertainment, efficiency, maintenance, safety, and convenience. Parallel advances in sensors, communications, cloud and data analytics infrastructure, geophysical mapping, machine learning, mobile devices, user interfaces and related areas have created a rich foundation that can offer tremendous opportunity for creating value. The work in automotive and transporation addresses the need for standards in a connected vehicle ecosystem, modes of transportation and related services.
The newly renamed Automotive and Transportation Business Group (formerly Automotive Webplatform Business Group) has a role in fostering and advancing the adoption and continued development of W3C Automotive Working Group's standards including coordinating with the broader transportation information space and acting as an incubator for future standards work. Areas of work in scope for this group are:
The W3C Automotive Working Group is learning from real world experiences from its Vehicle Information Service Specification (VISS), a service in production vehicles now, and being used elsewhere, aiming to create a rich application ecosystem for vehicles.
The standard provides an access method to a common data model for all the signals information available on vehicles, engine temperature, fuel/charge level, range, tire pressure etc. Presently it encapsulates approximately a thousand different data elements and will be growing to accommodate the advances in automotive such as autonomous and driver assist technologies and electrification.
Applications run on the vehicles themselves on the "head unit" (where the car stereo resides) and other devices allowed to connect to the vehicle. Some envision using it in the cloud to provide in-direct access to vehicles.
Leveraging the underlying data model of the VIWI submission from Volkswagen, the group is working on a successor to VISS, as a more robust means of accessing vehicle signals information and the same paradigm for other automotive needs including location-based services, media, notifications and caching content. The group has an early prototype of the as yet unnamed "Gen2" successor.
W3C's Web of Things work is designed to bridge disparate technology stacks to allow devices to work together and achieve scale, thus enabling the potential of the Internet of Things by eliminating fragmentation and fostering interoperability. The Web of Things complements existing IoT ecosystems to reduce the cost and risk for suppliers and consumers of applications that create value by combining multiple devices and information services. There are many sectors that will benefit, e.g. smart homes, smart cities, smart industry, smart agriculture, smart healthcare and many more.
The Web of Things Interest Group explores ideas prior to standardization in collaboration with external standards development organizations and industry alliances. Such liaisons have already progressed in two critical areas:
The Web of Things Working Group having finished the initial Web of Things standards (Web of Things Architecture, Thing Descriptions), has rechartered to work on interoperability profiles, discovery, lifecycle/onboarding, and ID management.
The Government Technology Agency of Singapore (GovTech) gave an exciting presentation on the need for standardization on Smart Cities during the 2019 Second W3C Workshop on the Web of Things and then submitted as possible next-gen Web of Things use cases Smart City Geolocation and Public Health Monitoring which the Web of Things Interest Group is considering in a Proof-of-concepts task force.
We believe now is a good time to form a W3C Interest Group for Smart Cities and are in the process of drafting a charter for such a group:
Data is increasingly important to society, especially with the rise of IoT, Big Data and the opportunities around AI and Machine Learning. Linked Data represents use of URIs as names for things, the ability to dereference these URIs to get further information, and to include links to other data.
W3C has a mature and extensive suite of standards relating to data that were developed over two decades of experience; and plans further work to make it even easier for developers to work with graph data and knowledge graphs, and for the industry to exploit advanced digital technologies and facilitate business by integrating horizontally along the supply and value chains, and vertically from the factory to the office.
Verifiable Credentials and Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) are closely related: by their very nature of being cryptographically verifiable, DIDs are an ideal tool to identify the various actors in a Verifiable Credential, whose cryptographic integrity is one of its most important features. Work on the latter has successfully concluded a year ago.
Digital Identifiers are fundamental for the deployment of various services on the Web and beyond, both in terms of interactive applications and also as part of the deployment of a Web of Data. Considering the various types of applications, identifiers should be easy to create, decentralized, persistent, resolvable, and cryptographically verifiable. While a number of identification schemes (Web URLs, ISBNs, ORCID numbers, email addresses, UUIDs, etc.) fulfill some of these characteristics, none fulfill all.
The Decentralized Identifier Working Group aims at defining digital identifiers as specific URI schemes that have an associated DID document: a JSON document containing primarily cryptographic information that allows any agent to check entity integrity, exchange private information, and get services information; and that can be stored on various types of distributed ledgers, Web storage systems like github, or IPFS. The group continually updates DID Identifiers v 1.0, DID Specification Registries and DID Use Cases and Requirements. The group plans to bring DID Identifiers specification to Candidate Recommendation by year-end.
Credentials are a part of our daily lives: drivers’ licenses are used to assert that we are capable of operating a motor vehicle, university degrees can be used to assert our level of education, and government-issued passports enable us to travel between countries. Such credentials, specifically the digital versions thereof, are fundamentally important for a number of applications, user interactions, workflow, etc., that are happening on the Web. These digital credentials must be cryptographically secure and verifiable, privacy-respecting, and managed in a decentralized manner to ensure flexibility and long term sustainability of applications that depend on them.
The Verifiable Credentials Working Group rechartered to enter specification maintenance mode, having published in 2019 Verifiable Credentials Data Model 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation to provide the basis for the larger-scale deployment of digital credentials across many different applications and Verifiable Credentials Use Cases. No technical changes are planned at this time.
CSS is a critical part of the Open Web Platform. The CSS Working Group gathers requirements from two large groups of CSS users: the publishing industry and application developers. The former requires 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 over a hundred specifications, referred to as ‘modules’. The current state of CSS is defined by a snapshot, updated once a year. The group also publishes an index defining every term defined by CSS specifications.
Web Fonts are used for languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean, where downloading entire fonts is too costly; and Arabic and Indic languages, where subsetted Web Fonts often do not work correctly. The Web Fonts Working Group develops specifications that allow the interoperable deployment of downloadable fonts on the Web, with a focus on Progressive Font Enrichment (PFE) as well as maintenance of WOFF Recommendations. Having developed a PFE testing and analysis framework, the group rigorously evaluating the proposed solutions before starting standards-track work.
Note: 27 July 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of the publication of the First Public Working Draft of Web Open Font Format.
The WHATWG snapshot of the June 2019 DOM Specification is being endorsed as a W3C Recommendations. This is the first WHATWG snapshot being adopted as such.
The HTML Draft has been going through wide reviews.
The Web Performance Working Group discusses new ways to improve the performance of Web applications and how some of the proposals are affecting performance (Third-Party Origin Trials, Event Timing, Interactions, Normalization, & SPA Navs).
Web Audio 1.0, which is implemented in all browsers, enables synthesizing audio in the browser. Audio operations are performed with audio nodes, which are linked together to form a modular audio routing graph. Multiple sources — with different types of channel layout — are supported. This modular design provides the flexibility to create complex audio functions with dynamic effects.
Web Audio 2.0 builds on this robust foundation, adding nodes that were in strong demand from audio developers.
WebAssembly is a virtual machine and execution environment widely deployed in browsers and stand-alone environments, that enables near-native performance, optimized load time, and perhaps most importantly, a compilation target for existing code bases. WebAssembly became a W3C Recommendation last December.
The group and companion Community Group, where requirements gathering and language development take place, continue to work on a range of features for future versions of the standard, including:
The MiniApps Ecosystem Community Group is looking into the basic architecture of MiniApps to determine if a workable standard is possible. The group released a few proposals including:
After a few discussions with the TAG and the Web Platform community, members in the CG agreed that vendors, developers and users will benefit if we are able to reach interoperability across the different MiniApp platforms while working together under the goal of One Web.
Since 2014 W3C began work on this coordinated open-source effort to build a cross-browser test suite for the Web Platform, which WHATWG, and all major browsers adopted. Recent progress in the WebPlatform Tests project includes:
Privacy and security – integral to human rights and civil liberties – have long been important in the Web Consortium's agenda. For example, our work has been instrumental in improving Web security through the development of authentication technologies that can replace weak passwords and reduce the threats of phishing and other attacks.
However, users rightly fear the misuse of their personal data and being tracked online, including browser fingerprinting, the spread of disinformation, and other online harms. These are difficult and urgent challenges. We have begun discussions about how to help users find trustworthy content on the Web without increasing censorship.
Formed earlier this year, the Privacy Community Group is seeing vibrant participation; its calls routinely draw 60 participants whose recent work items include:
The Improving Web Advertising Business Group now welcomes over 200 participants from nearly 90 organizations discussing and documenting use-cases and proposals for privacy-protective advertising on the Web.
Conversations have begun regarding the formation of a working group for private-ads work such as FLoC, TURTLEDOVE, SPARROW.
The group holds joint discussions with the WICG and the Privacy Community Group regarding proposals around privacy-preserving aggregate measurement, client-side interest-based ad selection, and preparation for a Web without third-party cookies.
Since the publication in the Spring 2019 as a W3C Recommendation of WebAuthn Level 1, adoption of strong cryptographic authentication has been growing, with implementation across browser platforms and deployment on major web applications. The WebAuthn Adoption Community Group launched earlier this year with help from the W3C Developer Relations team is dedicated to lifting the obstacles that might prevent developers from adopting WebAuthn, and helping developers and users of the specification to improve adoption of its interoperable security.
The Web Authentication Working Group is working on WebAuthen Level 2 this year.
The group also provides guidelines and advice for addressing privacy in standards development, including privacy considerations in specifications. To conduct privacy reviews of other groups' specifications, it has been using new tool to track issues (this tool also tracks issues raised in the name of security reviews, which are coordinated by the W3C Team and done by a pool of volunteers). PING has also had renewed success making work groups aware of privacy and fingerprinting issues in their specifications.
All Internationalization specifications • educational articles related to Internationalization • spec developers checklist • overview of language enablement work in progress • Internationalization Initiative
Only a quarter of the world's population of almost 8 billion speaks English, and yet over 50% of online content is written in that one language. Those whose voice and language are not included on the Web are marginalized and excluded. They do not receive the economic, educational or democratic benefits of the Web and by not having their presence and participation, we lose the potential of the Web to reflect the full richness of the world.
The Web Consortium launched the Internationalization Activity (i18n) in 1998 to make the Web truly 'world wide'. For the Web to truly work for stakeholders all around the world engaging with content in various languages, there must be a collaboration of language experts, Web site designers, developers, and vendors who are active in moving the Web forward. The Web Consortium Internationalization Activity has developed a language matrix of International typography which is supported on the Web. We will only be able to connect all communities that share a language when the Web supports all the world's languages.
For an overview of current projects see the i18n radar.
Under the Internationalization initiative sponsors may fund extra resources in i18n beyond what is covered by the core membership funding, with a goal to increase participants and expertise in this crucial empowering work.
In the last year, we have been making your contributions even more easier:
With additional funding, progress could take place in three key areas: Language enablement, Developer support, and Author support (education & outreach).
See below what the Web community accomplishes at the Web Consortium in those areas.
Japanese and Chinese layout task forces continue to meet regularly and are actively working on their documents. Other groups include Arabic, Southeast Asian, and Indic task forces. We have been developing networks for discussion of European and African languages, and (a recent addition) the languages of the Americas. More experts are welcome to contribute gap analysis and requirements information. For a summary of current status, see the language matrix.
Recent highlights in language enablement include:
The Internationalization Working Group has been active reviewing specifications and providing advice to other work groups, including CSS, WHATWG, WebXR, Accessibility Guidelines, Web Publishing, MiniApps, GeoLocation, among others
New work includes:
In addition to the resources mentioned above, there is a number of educational Internationalization techniques for authors.
In 2006, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which reaffirmed that all persons with all types of disabilities should be able to enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Convention defined access to information, including web and digital content, as a human right. Digital accessibility, including web accessibility, is key for equal access, opportunity and participation for all.
When websites and Web tools are properly designed and coded, people with disabilities can use them, and individuals, businesses, and society all benefit. The Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), launched in 1997, develops technical specifications, guidelines, and techniques, as well as supporting resources such as outreach and training materials to promote awareness and implementation. WAI’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is regarded as the authoritative international standard for Web accessibility, and has been adopted or referenced by many governments around the world.
However, as the complexity of the Web increases, and as technologies as diverse as digital publishing and virtual reality converge onto the Web, the need for up-to-date accessibility support in advanced technologies is increasing exponentially. Without the Web Consortium's efforts, people with disabilities would be left further behind. WAI supports W3C's Web for All mission, and helps ensure a cohesive program of coordinated accessibility activities, distributed across all areas of W3C, with additional support from WAI funders and sponsors.
Digital accessibility is more important than ever during this time when it is harder to gather together in person. Remote meetings, school, work, health care – web accessibility provides an inclusive foundation across all of these settings, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2) is where to get started.
In Accessibility of Remote Meetings, WAI is highlighting the applicability of current accessibility guidelines and investigating gaps where newer guidance and technical support is needed. Accessibility guidance has also been integrated into Continuity of Operations, the document the W3C Team put together as we halted work-related staff travel and moved to operating completely remotely.
To foster the excellent feedback loop between Web Standards development and Web developers, and to grow participation from that diverse community, recent W3C Developer Relations activities include:
Since 2015, W3C started W3Cx in partnership with edX and has been developing MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), showcasing its authority and expertise across a range of courses on core Web technologies.
Many Web users rely on translations of documents developed at W3C whose official language is English.
W3C is extremely grateful to the continuous efforts of its community in ensuring our various deliverables in general, and in our specifications in particular, are made available in other languages, for free, ensuring their exposure to a much more diverse set of readers.
Please, refer to the instructions in order to contribute translations.
Liaisons and coordination with numerous organizations and Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) is crucial for W3C to: