Last week I attended the www conference in Raleigh. It was my first technical conference since I joined W3C less than two months ago. Good conference. Keynotes, panels, technical sessions, poster sessions – all good. Lots of good work underway.
What did I learn at the conference?
I learned a great deal of specific knowledge at the conference, but I was also thinking through the ensemble of information to see what it suggested. Here is my reaction. Although the utility of the Web has been incredible over the last two decades – innovation does not stop. Quite the contrary. We are at the very beginning of the broadest expansion of the Web platform since the Web’s inception.
The Web is the platform for future computing in the same way that the desktop operating system was the platform for computing in previous eras. This is based on the contributions that are underway and the opportunities in front of us.
What is a platform? It is a set of stable interfaces and protocols provided by the platform provider so the rest of the world has a sandbox to innovate and create the next generation of computing applications. In the case of the Web, it is an open platform – and the platform provider is “all of us” working together in W3C working groups.
In what way is the platform expanding?
There are several items of huge importance that everyone familiar with W3C knows quite well. HTML5, customized style sheets, standard graphics on the Web, and a burgeoning collection of fonts are key pieces of the Web as an application platform.
Increasingly, people access the Web through hand held devices. It is important to have common presentation of the Web from the tiniest handheld to the largest television. Our Mobile Web effort drives, with key contributions in VoiceXML, Device APIs, and Geolocation.
The Web is not only a technology platform. It touches key elements of society. As a result, security and privacy are a focus. In W3C, one of our most successful focus areas is the area of Web Accessibility. We are working actively to promote WCAG 2.0 internationally, and to ensure that the next generation of technologies, including HTML5, support accessibility.
The next big platform expansion
While all of the above is having impact in the immediate time frame, the pace of the next few years will be truly breathtaking. The Web of data, vertical industry frameworks, social networking, Web services, the Ubiquitous Web (sensors), and cloud computing are all elements of the platform for tomorrow. Each of these areas represent a broad range of challenges: where should the W3C participate? What should be standardized? And when? Are we already too late in certain areas?
Imperatives for W3C
As I think about my responsibility to drive the organization of W3C, it must be measured against the challenges we face. The largest challenge is to create this new platform: quickly, innovatively, with participation, and with open standardization. I will blog in the future as to how we will get our hands around this challenge.