W3C Activities Related to the

"Global Information Networks" Ministerial Conference Meeting in Bonn, Germany

6-8 July 1997

This version: http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-eu-conf-970711

Latest version: http://www.w3.org/TR/eu-conf

Editor: Sally Khudairi, W3C, <khudairi@w3.org>

Author: Josef Dietl, W3C, <jdietl@w3.org>

Status of This Document

This document is a NOTE made available by the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C] [1] for discussion only. It places Consortium activities in the context of the "Global Information Networks" conference [2]. Another note (W3C Activities Related to the US "Framework for Global Electronic Commerce"[3]) discusses the relation between W3C activities and the US "Framework for Global Electronic Commerce". This note does not indicate an endorsement of its content, nor that the Consortium has, is, or will be allocating any resources to the issues addressed by the NOTE other than indicated on the appropriate Activities page. A list of current NOTEs can be found at: http://www.w3.org/TR/ [4]. This NOTE will not be maintained, so we kindly ask you to refer to the Activity areas cited in the References section for deeper and up-to-date information.


Global information networks are changing the world. Information networks, led by the World Wide Web, are drawing people closer together, thus giving shape to the vision of a global information society. "The Web has evolved from a technology into a social force. The Web community must therefore actively work to explain the technology to the parts of society which are being affected." -- Jim Miller, W3C Technology & Society Domain Leader

Since the invention of the Web by W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web Consortium faces these challenges on behalf of its large membership base of Web-oriented companies and organizations. Its task is to realize the full potential of the Web. Therefore, the W3C is providing or working on technical solutions needed to answer several questions raised by the Theme Paper [5]. The purpose of this Note is to document the connection between the political needs addressed in the Theme Paper and the technical resources provided by the World Wide Web Consortium.

Building Confidence

The confidence of Industry and users is essential to allow the positive development of global information networks, particularly the World Wide Web. Upcoming issues include:

Security and confidentiality

While there are a vast range of confidentiality issues in the area of individual communication such as e-mail, there are also open questions in the privacy policy area. In all commercial media, there is a constant tension between a desire by the public for privacy and a need for information about the viewing audience. Sometimes the tension is left to be resolved in the marketplace, but governments have often mediated it through varying forms of privacy and data protection regulation. As the Web continues to mature as a commercial media, it is particularly prone to this dissonance due to its interactive nature. Users often wish to provide information so as to customize their experience without forfeiting all privacy. Services wish to oblige users, while also complying with disparate legislation across multiple countries.

W3C addresses these questions in it's latest initiative, the Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3) Project [6] which has shortly been demonstrated for the Federal Trade Comission [FTC].

Security and integrity

Market forces have pushed vendors to field initial solutions such as Microsoft's Authenticode system, JavaSoft's JAR (Java Archive) technology, and IBM's Cryptolopes. These vendors recognized that these solutions were incomplete, and that an interoperable infrastructure was needed.

The Digital Signature Initiative (DSig, [7]), initiated at the request of these (and other) vendors and approved by a vote of the W3C Advisory Committee, is W3C's response. The project uses digital signature, identity certificate, packing list, and content label technologies to provide a comprehensive solution to the basic problem of helping users decide what to trust on the Web.

DSig includes technologies to verify the origin of a document and integrity. Additionally, it provides means to verify origin and integrity of assertions (e.g. PICS compliant child protection labels) for Web pages.

Responsibility of the actors

The universal use of the World Wide Web would not have been possible without a common "language" which is understandable by every connected computer.

If one of the computers, be it on the client or the server side, does not adhere to the protocol, he will be unable to participate or contribute, respectively, to the wealth of information provided by this new media. A common protocol is thus the base requirement to this global information network. The most popular protocol on the Internet, the HyperText Transfer Protocol [http] [8], was invented by Tim Berners-Lee. W3C has led the way in standardizing more expressive, extensible and faster versions of HTTP since its invention.

The technical definition of this and other protocols provide ready-to-use means to define roles of the players in the global information distribution game, as the notion "server" and "client" is clearly defined in the specifications of every protocol. Protocols define the role of every machine on the internet, and while most machines can act in both roles at times, it's role is clearly defined in every particular communication process if it adheres to the protocol - and communication is not possible if it does not. As soon as the role of some machine is clearly determined (and it is, as demonstrated above, by the protocol), its administrator can be assigned his role and responsibility in the global information network.

Empowering the User

The new opportunities for society and business provided by the emerging technologies have to be available to as wide a scope of users as possible. The first big step to this, was to provide an easy-to-use, graphical user interface to all the information services already provided by the internet: the invention of the World Wide Web and its then new programming capabilities set down in the HyperText Markup Language [HTML], invented by Tim Berners-Lee.

The W3C's mission is to realize the full potential of the Web. Shepherding the development of HTML remains one of W3C's key activities, and is one of the activities within its User Interface Domain [9]. The User Interface Domain seeks to improve all user/computer communications on the Web. In particular, the Domain is working on formats and languages that will present information to users with more accuracy and a higher level of control. In addition, the Domain extends the scope of the Web as a whole by efforts in the area of internationalization and localization as well as their support for the Web Acessibility Initiative [WAI] [10] conducted by the Technology & Society Domain.

Further user empowerment can be achieved when the Technology & Society Domain's Platform for Internet Content Selection [PICS] [11] is exploited to its full potential. While PICS has become widely-known as the foremost solution for Internet content selection without government censorship, it also provides the technical framework for the abovementioned privacy project P3 [6].

Making the most of content resources

Content, in all its forms, is more than the vital raw material of the information society - it is what all this is about. Content includes software and data, text and sounds, images and multimedia combinations of any of these. Of course, copyright and other intellectual property rights play a key role in encouraging the availability of a critical mass of content on the global information networks. Part of W3C's contribution to this aspect of the Web's full potential is the transfer of PICS to this new area. While PICS was originally designed to help parents and teachers control what children access on the Internet, it also facilitates other uses for labels, including code signing, privacy, and intellectual property rights management. Further research on IPR is ongoing and documented on the Intellectual Property Rights Overview Page [12].


Currently, the World Wide Web prevails as the most important global information network. While vast areas of policy, infrastructure and international cooperation extend beyond the mission and capacities of W3C, it leads the evolution and provides the technical framework for the World Wide Web. There the Consortium develops far more than technical specifications alone; it creates the environment where one day the Web will realize its full potential.


[1] The World Wide Web Consortium - http://www.w3.org
[2] Global Information Networks Conference - http://www.echo.lu/bonn/conference.html
[3] W3C Activities Related to the US "Framework for Global Electronic Commerce"- http://www.w3.org/TR/NOTE-whitehouse-970701.html/
[4] W3C Technical Reports and Publications - http://www.w3.org/TR/
[5] Global Information Networks, Ministerial Conference Bonn 6-8 July 1997, Theme Paper - http://www.echo.lu/bonn/themepaper.html
[6] Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3) Project Activity - http://www.w3.org/Privacy/Activity.html
[7] DSig Activity Statement - http://www.w3.org/Security/DSig/Activity.html
[8] Hypertext Transfer Protocol Overview - http://www.w3.org/Protocols/
[9] W3C User Interface Domain - http://www.w3.org/UI/
[10] Web Accessibility Initiative - http://www.w3.org/WAI/
[11] Platform for Internet Content Selection - http://www.w3.org/PICS/
[12] Intellectual Property Rights Activity Area - http://www.w3.org/IPR/Activity.html


The World Wide Web Consortium supported this work

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