W3C User Interface

The User Interface Domain

HTML | Style Sheets | Multimedia | Math | Graphics | Voice Browser | Internationalization | Device Independence | Amaya | Team | History

User Interface: improving the technology that allows users to effectively perceive and express information

"Web information will grow immensely in variety, and be used by a much greater diversity of people than today. What is imperative is that simplicity and interoperability continue to be of prime importance." -- Vincent Quint, User Interface Domain Leader


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.

Domain Activities | The User Interface Team | News, Events, and History

In July 2001 the User Interface Domain was split into two new domains: Document Formats and Interaction. Please refer to those new domains to get the latest information.

This page is no longer updated. It is provided as historical background.

Domain Activities

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

Hypertext Markup Language -- known as HTML -- is the lingua franca for publishing on the Web. Following the success of W3C's HTML 3.2 and HTML 4.0, the Consortium is designing the next generation of the markup language. The new HTML, called XHTML, is re-cast in XML and is being designed so that it can be used in combination with other XML applications.

The HTML Activity also includes work on the next generation of forms. This work started as a subgroup of the HTML working group but has now been spun off into an independent working group (XForms). The key idea is to separate the user interface and presentation from the data model and logic, allowinging the same form to be used on a wide variety of devices such as voice browers, handhelds, desktops and even paper. XForms brings the benefits of XML to Web forms, transferring form data as XML. XForms aims to reduce the need for scripting, and to make it easier to achieve the desired layout of form fields without having to resort to using nested tables etc.

Style Sheets

Style sheets offer precise control over the presentation of Web pages. Not only can Web designers specify the visual effects they want, but also aural style sheets give control over voice, pitch and other aspects of how the text will sound when rendered into speech. After the publication of two recommendations, CSS1and CSS2, W3C continues to evolve the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) language to provide even richer stylistic control, while emphasizing the importance of the thorough implementation of CSS on browsers.

For more complex publishing tasks, such as automatically producing a table of contents, and for converting documents written in XML into HTML for publication, W3C is developing the Extensible Style Sheets Language (XSL), which builds upon experience in CSS and DSSSL.

Synchronized Multimedia

W3C's Synchronized Multimedia Activity focusses on the design of a language for scheduling multimedia presentations where audio, video, text and graphics are combined in real-time. The language, the Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) is written as an XML application and is currently a W3C Recommendation. Simply put, it enables authors to specify what should be presented when.


Communicating mathematical and other technical notation is a challenging and important task. The demand is high for effective means of electronic scientific communication. To address the needs of the scientific community, W3C has developed a core specification for embedding mathematical expressions in HTML and XML documents. In April 1998, W3C published a Recommendation entitled Mathematical Markup Language, or MathML, which provides a way of encoding both mathematical content and visual presentation for mathematics at all levels, from elementary school to scientific research.


Graphics are the most visible part of the modern Web and arguably one of the primary reasons for it popularity and explosive growth. Successful use of graphics on the Web depends on interoperability across platforms, output resolutions, color spaces, and software products.

In October 1996, W3C issued a Recommendation for Portable Network Graphics (PNG), a format for bitmapped images. Interoperable methods of integrating CGM vector graphics have then been developed and constitute the WebCGM Profile Recommendation. W3C is now developing Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), an open vector graphics format written in XML, and designed to work across platforms, output resolutions, color spaces, and a range of available bandwidths.

Voice Browser

W3C is working to expand access to the Web to allow people to interact with Web sites via spoken commands, and listening to prerecorded speech, music and synthetic speech. This will allow any telephone to be used to access Web-based services, and will be a boon to people with visual impairments or needing Web access while keeping theirs hands & eyes free for other things.


The Web was originally developed to enable people throughout the world to communicate with one another. Having a single system that can deal with all languages and cultures has many advantages: when the same protocols are used everywhere, the same software can likewise be used.

W3C has successfully stressed the role of Unicode as the basis for identifying characters in documents. Work is continuing on providing markup and style components for international needs.

Device Independence

W3C's Device Independence Activity is working to ensure a seamless Web for all access devices by reorganizing the Mobile Access and Television and the Web Activities into one. Web services are becoming accessible from a wide range of devices from desktop PCs to in-car computers, TV, digital cameras, and cellular phones. W3C is well-positioned to lead development to avoid incompatibility and to achieve single Web authoring.

Open Source Code


Amaya is a highly advanced and powerful Web client which acts as both a browser and an authoring tool. It has been designed with the primary purpose of being a testbed for experimenting with, testing and demonstrating new specifications and extensions of Web protocols and formats.

Before Amaya, Arena has been developed by W3C as a testbed for HTML and CSS.

About the User Interface Team

Currently ten members strong, W3C's User Interface team brings together some of today's most respected innovators in Web design tools. Its representatives have considerable knowledge in markup languages, style sheets, graphics, fonts, and internationalization, among other areas. The team is led by Vincent Quint, whose areas of expertise include electronic documents, document models, hypertext, and document production systems. The team also solicits external advice from leading experts in the field.

News, Events, and History

Vincent Quint, User Interface Domain Leader
$Date: 2001/07/06 15:58:29 $

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