Volcanic ash, Europe, and W3C

I’ve been to Europe numerous times, but last week was my first visit as CEO of W3C. The meetings were good: with Member companies, prospects, government officials, executives of other standards organizations, press, W3C staff, and other colleagues at ERCIM.

The Eyjafjallajolkull volcano

Below, I’ll provide some reactions to my meetings, but first I find it impossible not to be philosophical about the volcanic ash spreading from Iceland. After all, I’m supposed to return to the US today but my flight is canceled. Like many others I am scrambling. How to reorganize our schedules? Keep our meeting commitments?

And there is no end in sight. The travel system has broken down. No-one knows when and where the system will open up.

Critical infrastructures

The airline route system is a critical infrastructure that modern commerce relies on. In the 1990s, I was on an advisory panel looking at critical infrastructures. There are quite a number: electrical, power, transportation, telecommunications, etc. All must have continuous availability against a wide range of circumstances. And we are experiencing a circumstance where sadly and unpredictably the travel system has broken down.

For me, the crisis is a metaphor to think about the Web. The Web is a critical infrastructure. Staggering amounts of commerce rely on the Web. It is humbling to stare at the travel infrastructure and map it to what we must do for the Web. We have collective responsibility to ensure continuous availability of the Web.

Many players participate in this. W3C participants, including its members, do focus on a stewardship role for the Web. W3C strives to ensure that Web technology is capable of connecting all people and devices to data all of the time. Continuous availability.

There are well over 300 organizations who are members of W3C and I applaud their participation in our efforts. They recognize that the Web was created in an open fashion and we all work together for its enhancement and protection. Organizations that are Members contribute to the stewardship role in at least two ways: through their efforts to develop and implement open standards, and through their financial support of W3C. This support is a good investment for these companies given how they – and all of us – benefit from a successful (and now critical) infrastructure.


Enough philosophy! How were my meetings in Europe?

Exhilarating. As I mentioned at the beginning, I met with a wide range of stakeholders in the Web. The view from Europe is impressive in terms of the maturity of appreciation of the Web. My above musings about the Web – our joint responsibility to develop and protect the infrastructure – would be endorsed by all that I met with here. Companies and governments alike recognize the prosperity they have received and want to “give back” as well. Can’t say I’m surprised, but I can say I am pleased.

And now I will resume my focus on scrambling back home.