This report, dated 19 April 2021, was prepared for the April 2021 Virtual W3C Advisory Committee Meeting (W3C Member link). See the accompanying W3C Fact Sheet — April 2021. For the previous edition, see the October 2020 W3C Strategic Highlights. For future editions of this report, please bookmark the latest version.
The world has accelerated its movement from physical interaction to virtual over the last 14 months. This is both exciting and troubling that it was a byproduct of a public health nightmare. Statistics abound that speak to the centrality of the Web.
The web has become a key technical infrastructure for global society as it adapted to changes imposed in a world where travel and physical contacts need to be limited. Whether it is e-commerce, remote learning, telehealth, conducting business in new ways, entertainment or staying in touch with family and friends, this acceleration will continue.
The increased dependence on technology also re-energizes our need to assure interoperability of the world's technical infrastructure (including both traditional web and the miniApp infrastructure in China).
These changes are driving organizational renewal at the Web Consortium: including our vision and strategy for the future, increasing our focus on diversity and inclusion, and improving our specification process.
Now more than ever, the Web Consortium's work directly supports the move from physical to virtual (e.g., WebRTC recently became a standard) as well as innovations that address the needs of a changing society, following pattern of solving problems critical to society, helping them scale to web level, ensuring interoperability while addressing challenging problems of security, privacy and greater decentralization of the web, web payments, web performance, entertainment and media, web accessibility, and internationalization.
We are proud that W3C's work has been essential to the ways in which our world has met the challenge of the past year of crisis and in providing solutions for what will come next. This report highlights recent work done to enhance the Web platform, and innovate for its growth and strength so that the web remains 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 350 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.
W3C Workshops recently completed:
The Strategy incubation pipeline documents the exploration of potential new work in phases of Incubation and Evaluation, and eventually in the chartering stages of new standards groups. The W3C Strategy Team's incubation pipeline 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 pipeline.
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 newly launched W3C Patent Policy 2020 is being deployed in the various Working Groups. In December 2020, 12 Working Groups volunteered to switch the new Patent Policy.
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.
The Web Payments Working Group plans to advance Payment Request API 1.0 to Proposed Recommendation once discussions with the Privacy Interest Group have completed on whether to maintain a feature related to address collection that has raised privacy concerns.
In March, Stripe published the results of their experiment with "Secure Payment Confirmation." The experiment tested the hypothesis that users will prefer Web Authentication to one-time passwords within what is called the "challenge flow" of the EMV 3-D Secure protocol. The experiment showed that, with SPC, users completed 8% more purchases and authentication was three times faster than one time passwords. In addition, there was negligible fraud with SPC (similar to one time passwords). You can read more on this in the Web Payments working group blog.
SPC as it was used in the Stripe pilot offers a "low-friction" authentication flow during a transaction, but the industry is also interested in "zero friction" risk assessment flows. Many of today's approaches involve cookies and browser fingerprinting. In light of changes to the browser, the Working Group (and the Web Payment Security Interest Group) are looking into alternative approaches that are also more privacy-protecting.
The W3C Merchant Business Group –which launched last September as a non-technical forum where participants discuss merchant challenges, how emerging Web technologies could help address them, and what additional Web capabilities may be necessary– is still forming.
Current topics of discussion include the use of bar codes including QR on online commerce, balancing friction and consent, accessibility, and changes in payments due to the pandemic.
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 September 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. That work has begun with more systematic testing and accompanying improvements on the standard in the form of clarifications, better conformance statements.
In order to make EPUB more readable, and to remove duplications and redundancies, the group has made significant editorial improvements without changing any of the technical requirements of EPUB 3.2. You can read more about the EPUB 3.3 and EPUB Accessibility 1.1 first public working drafts published recently.
The Publishing Business Group explores new areas of work and business needs generic to publishing on the web, by observing the community, expanding it, reaching out and communicating as a forum.
The group has been instrumental in the development of EPUBCheck. Please read more on EPUBCheck 4.2.5 and a New EPUBCheck Website.
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 became a standard in January 2021, Ten years in the making, the technology transformed the communication landscape by making any connected device a potential communication end-point, thus enabling rich, interactive, live voice and video communications anywhere on the web or any network, boosting global interconnection and 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.
W3C recently started work on WebTransport and Web Codecs, which promises to bring the benefits of low-latency streaming to the broader media and entertainment ecosystem.
The work happens in collaboration with the IETF's WEBTRANS Working Group, which defines the protocol on which the API builds.
After successful joint meetings during TPAC in late 2020, the Web & Networks Interest Group's focus continues around:
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 standard provides an access method to a common data model for all the signals information available on vehicles, such as 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.
Creating a rich ecosystems for vehicles, applications run on the vehicles themselves on the "head unit" (where the car stereo resides). Some envision using it in the cloud to provide in-direct access to vehicles.
The second version of VISS is now feature-complete, adding HTTP REST in addition to WebSocket. Access control authorization is addressed now, as is a robust authentication model. Data feed subscriptions have been improved as well. A reference implementation is currently exploring supporting MQTT protocol which is used in the automotive industry. Editorial review is underway and a First Public Working Draft is expected in the near future.
The Automotive and Transportation 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. The group also works with the data architects from ISO JTC1 WG11 SmartCities. Recent work includes:
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 (WoT) standardization activities are now illustrated through a new WoT explainer animation. The video shows how a web developer can implement interoperable Internet of Things solutions that are not locked into vendor specific frameworks, and how the W3C WoT can be applied to domains such as agriculture, building or industrial automation, smart homes, and 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:
Smart Cities are various technologies –Web of Things being only one of them– and processes for intelligent management of our built and inhabited environment. Smart Cities' applications are tightly related to the people who live in cities, and potentially would have negative impacts on their lives. Therefore, it is crucial to begin from inclusive design, account for accessibility, privacy and security as well as internationalization.
W3C announced a W3C Workshop on Smart Cities to be held online on 25 June 2021, aiming to:
The Improving Web Advertising Business Group formed in December 2017 as a cross-industry forum for business representatives to discuss how online advertising could be made more effective and privacy-preserving.
The group now includes more than 350 participants from more than 100 organizations, discussing and documenting use-cases and proposals for privacy-protective advertising on the Web.
We hear use cases from publishers, marketers, web applications, end-users, and ad-tech and measurement companies; and liaise with other organizations on drafts in development there.
Work discussed in the group is now incubating in WICG and the Privacy Community Group, including proposals around privacy-preserving aggregate measurement, client-side interest-based ad selection, and preparation for a Web without third-party cookies.
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.
Given that the CSS “specification” is over 100 separate documents, the CSS Snapshot is a representation of the state of CSS by listing together all of the specifications considered essentially completed.
The Web Audio Working Group adds advanced sound and music synthesis capabilities to the Open Web Platform.
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.
The group updated the Web Audio API 1.0 as a Candidate Recommendation Snapshot in January. There have been continued improvements in the test pass rates for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. The group is close to moving to Proposed Recommendation for its first release and targets May for the specification to reach W3C Recommendation status.
HTML is the core markup language of the World Wide Web, a foundational technology upon which websites are built.
W3C remains committed to ensuring that HTML and DOM development continues to take into account the needs of the global community, and continues to improve in areas such as accessibility, internationalization and privacy while providing greater interoperability, performance and security.
The HTML Working Group expects to bring WHATWG Review Drafts of HTML and DOM to Recommendation on a yearly basis.
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.
The Web Fonts Working Group published its evaluation report for progressive font enrichment. The Chinese, Japanese and Korean (CJK) group of languages is currently unable to use Webfonts due to the very large file sizes. A substantial reduction in file size is needed, without a significant increase in page load times caused by multiple network requests. The report evaluates solutions that would allow WebFonts to be used where slow networks, very large fonts, or complex subsetting requirements currently preclude their use.
One of the 2020 milestones was the result of discussions with the W3C TAG and the MiniApp community where the agreement was reached 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.
The MiniApps Working Group is using as a starting point the technical proposals for a basic architecture of MiniApps and requirements document developed for a year in the MiniApps Ecosystem Community Group:
As of early 2021, the rich MiniApps platform is made of over 7M MiniApps, more than 20 vendors and 1.5M developers, and nearly 900M daily active users.
In April, the first CJK Meeting on MiniApps was held, gathering nearly 60 participants from over 30 organizations, to further explore areas of the MiniApp ecosystem in these regions, including identifying new scenarios.
The WebAssembly Recommendation 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.
The WebAssembly Working Group recently rechartered to split the specification in three parts:
The group anticipates to publish first public working drafts shortly.
Meanwhile, the companion WebAssembly Community Group is where requirements gathering and language development take place, incubating a range of features for future versions of the standard.
Data is 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.
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.
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.
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.
Since the publication in the Spring 2019 as a W3C Recommendation of WebAuthn Level 1, adoption of strong cryptographic authentication has continued to steadily grow, with implementation across browser platforms and deployment on major web applications. The WebAuthn Adoption Community Group aims to lift obstacles that might prevent developers from adopting WebAuthn, and help developers and users of the specification to improve adoption of its interoperable security.
The Privacy Interest Group (PING) does privacy reviews of other groups' specifications. It has been using new tooling to track issues and has had renewed success making groups aware of privacy and fingerprinting issues in their specifications. The group is also writing a Target Privacy Threat Model document.
Security reviews are done by a pool of volunteer reviewers coordinated by the W3C team. We welcome more people in that pool. Issues raised are tracked using the same tooling used by PING.
Formed in 2020 to host incubation of new privacy-focused specification and APIs, the Privacy Community Group is seeing vibrant participation; its calls routinely draw 60 participants whose recent work items include:
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. We will only be able to connect all communities that share a language when the Web supports all the world's languages and international typography.
For an overview of current projects see the i18n radar.
The Internationalization initiative allows sponsors to fund extra resources in i18n beyond what the core membership funding covers. Additional funding increases participants and expertise in this crucial empowering work.
See below what the Web community accomplishes at the Web Consortium in the key areas of Language enablement, Developer support, and Author support (education & outreach).
Documentation of requirements for specific scripts and languages, and of barriers to their use in technologies that exist or are currently in development. The language matrix summarizes current status of language enablement on the web. Read more on language enablement; find repositories & task forces supporting this effort.
Japanese and Chinese layout task forces continue to meet regularly and are actively working on their documents. We need additional participants to drive the work, notably in the Arabic, Southeast Asian, and Indic task forces.
6 first public working drafts of gap-analysis documents were recently published, covering Adlam (Fulah), French, German, Hebrew, N'Ko, and Osage.
Reviews, discussion and advice for W3C work groups (and sometimes for external initiatives at the Unicode Consortium or the IETF, etc.) and preparation of guidelines and checklists that groups can use to do self-review or self-education, as well as focus on specific technological problems.
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, Web Share, among others.
Recent work includes:
Articles to help content authors understand and use i18n features. I18N advice for courses, maintenance of an i18n checker for authors of web pages. Talks at conferences, etc.
In 2006, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 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. Web accessibility is key for equal access, opportunity and participation for all.
The Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), launched in 1997, develops technical specifications and outreach and training materials that promote awareness and implementation of web accessibility. 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.
As the complexity of the Web increases, 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. WAI supports W3C's Web for All mission, and helps ensure a cohesive program of coordinated accessibility activities, distributed across all areas of W3C.
Fostering the feedback loop between Web Standards development and Web developers, and growing participation from that diverse community.
W3Cx is W3C's partnership with edX since 2015 where we develop MOOCs 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.
W3C engages in liaisons and coordination with numerous organizations and Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) who develope internet or web standards, to coordinate the development of the Web.
The goals of liaisons and coordination are: