W3C Activities

Collaboration, KR, Automatability


A statement from Tim Berners-Lee, 28 Feb 1995:

There is a sequence of development which may not be very high on the agenda for commerce on the Internet but may have as important an impact on the nature of human use of networks. These elements may be tackled independenty but there is a certain logic to tackling them in order:

  1. Interactivity: front end update, annotation
  2. Information structuring
  3. Knowledge Representation
  4. Intelligent agents and the transmission of executable code



The web was initially designed as an interactive hypertext system for communication nthrough shared knowledge. However, the lack of interactive wysiwyg hypertext editors (apart from the original application) constrained the web to be a largely "broadcast" medium as fas as its use has gone. Although the architecture allows for decentralised editing and publication, the bottlenecks of HTML production tools and server administrators have made spontaneous linking and interaction impossible.

The benefits to be gained from raising the functionality of the web, both clients and servers, to allow interaction will include:

Information Structuring

There have long been calls for ways of better structuring information on the web. One part of the solution to this is to allow the small hypertext nodes of which the web is composed to be linked together with relationships such as subsections, footnotes, previous versions, etc.

Once this metainformation is defined, clients will be able to brovide a richer interface. For example, buttons will be able to appear to navigate the document structure; the status of documents will be able to affect their style, color, etc; Graphical maps used for navigation aids will be able to use different representations to express the structure; and programs will be able to treat aglomerations of related documents as groups.

Knowledge representation

As a step toward making a machine-interpretable web of knowledge, which is an important long-term goal, we must separate statements which are part of the knowledge base itself from metatinformation about documents.

Knowledge in the web may be divided ino knowledge which is stored in the structure of the web, in its typed links, and knowledge which is stored in nodes written a form of knowledge representation language. The former allows commonality and interworkingbetween different applications as it involved standards for relationship semantics. The latter is more flexible, provides greater functionaloity and less interworking, and is largely a question of using existing flexibility of the content-type negotiation system to introduce existing langauges. In this case some work may be needed to connect the existing langauges into the web environment (as with general SGML on the web)

Intelligent Agents

This is an area which is more atthe reserach stage, although some interesting products may be evaluated. The areas in which W3C may be involved would typicallybe in defining a common execution environment for mobile executable objects, and in defining inter-language communication standards in order for elements in different langauages to interact seamlessly.


Here are some outline strawman points.

For interactivity

For Information structuring For Knowledge Representation


For interactivity For basic information structuring For basic knowledge representation

Current Situation

The current libwww library has some of the PUT and POST work underway.

A set of link types has been defined since 1989 but there has been a confusion between meta information about information, and information about other things.

Next Step

A W3C meeting in Sept 11-12 in Boston is to be arranged to gather input for a refinement of the requirements.