Next Steps for W3C Coremob (Core Mobile Platform Community Group)
Hoping that those who have been at MWC have now had time to recover from it and that those that did not go have recovered from whatever they were doing instead.
It’s time to decide what Coremob will move on to do next. Irrespective of the hiatus that MWC represents, some thinking has been going on. Here is some of that thinking, which somewhat recapitulates what’s been said before and hopefully also provides the basis for gaining consensus and pressing on.
The agenda, contentiously put, is:
Making Web technology the obvious choice for cross platform development, and in the shorter term making it fit for mobile.
That suggests a lot of work and more resources than a W3C Community Group structure can muster. We propose creating a W3C Interest Group, with dedicated W3C staff resource, to follow up on the work of the CG (gap analysis and so on), to inform and enact W3C action plans, especially those identified by current W3C Headlight Projects.
This is discussed in more depth below.
1. Should the Community Group Continue in Some Form?
At one extreme, as Art Barstow suggested , we could say “job done” and pull down the shutters on the group. I think that’s a plausible alternative but also think that our work on CoreMob 2012 has shown that there is lots to be done to improve the Web on mobile. I think that Coremob – or a group very much like it – definitely has a role to play.
This view is reinforced by the W3C’s Headlight Project initiatives , , many of which are relevant to our ongoing agenda – in particular that headed by Dom, called “Closing the Gap with Native” .
Aside from Dom’s “Closing the Gap” initiative, there are also initiatives on Web performance and Payments (which might in any case be considered as part of Closing the Gap, from Coremob’s perspective).
As noted on the Coremob mailing list, the testing element of the present charter now moves to a centralized function in W3C headed by Tobie . That doesn’t mean we’re not interested in testing any more, far from it, but we are going to be interested in taking an overview of what needs testing, and with what priority – rather than creating test infrastructure or tests that run on it.
2. Areas of Interest
I think it is particularly important, going forward, that Coremob has a broader agenda than technology alone. I think it should also provide a vehicle to allow commercial and business objectives to inform thinking and prioritization. To my mind Web payments is a crucial area of concern for mobile. Thinking about other business requirements and commercial considerations, such as monetization of Web apps, is also a key concern.
In increasing order of generality, here are three areas of attention:
a) Follow up on and Develop our Earlier Work
Coremob 2012 identified various areas where standardization is needed (or needs to be accelerated) to build some relatively simple use cases. I think that Coremob has a role in influencing and lobbying various groups to try to prioritize work in those areas.
We may decide that enough progress has been made on implementation of the gaps noted in Coremob 2012 to think about a similar Coremob 2013. I’m not sure at the moment that this is realistic, but I do think that we can make good progress on (commercially inspired) use cases that we didn’t cover in Coremob 2012. Possible use cases that spring to my mind relate to shopping experiences and other experiences that involve interaction with the environment – bar code scanning, interaction with NFC and more.
b) Help Inform and Provide Feedback to other W3C Groups and W3C Team
A specific immediate example of this would be to provide input into some of the current Headlight projects. In the longer term this is both an extension of what is mentioned under a) above, and taking specific conclusions from the Headlight projects and working on them.
Under the heading of “Closing the Gap”, Dom has written a lot about various specific areas of interest, which I not only don’t disagree with but which in the main I wholeheartedly agree with. I’m not going to recapitulate those things here, but would recommend looking at them ,  and particularly  and  which I think provide a really good starting point for charter items and work items. I’d also recommend signing up to the mailing list .
The Headlight projects have a short lifetime. The things they identify will need taking forward beyond that lifetime. I think that the group should have an important role in providing ongoing continuity.
c) Making the Web the Platform of Choice for a Significant Number of Classes of Apps.
Some pretty broad topics are suggested under b) above that are candidates for an ongoing group to consider. In terms of breadth, I’m thinking of things like the relative absence of tools and SDK equivalents in the Web world, and even wondering about the structure of the W3C as an effective vehicle for prioritizing things that are necessarily cross-group in nature. But broad as these topics are, I don’t think it ends there.
It is inevitable, and in fact desirable, I think, that we construe this exercise as being a competitive one. In that way we take a business-like view of short term tactics and longer term strategy.
That said, when I say competitive, I want to be very clear that I think this is about unleashing the potential of the Web to serve applications for which, to my mind, it has a natural suitability. I don’t think that we are talking in any way at all about a “war on native”. There will always be some things that are best done in native, or that can’t in practice be done using Web technology.
A compelling point, in terms of competitiveness, is that people are increasingly engaging with products and services in a cross channel way. Journeys that start on one device or channel, continue on a second and then progresses to a third. Here we are talking of an area where the Web, in principle at least, has a built-in advantage.
There is plenty of scope for the ongoing group to think about user context (meaning something broader than device and location) and how a Web experience should respond to the context of the user. I think that responsive design (in a broad sense), is a necessary approach to achieving cross platform experience, but for which there is no single point of reference within W3C. There’s plenty of work relevant to it, in lots of working groups, for sure, not to mention many points of view outside the W3C, but nowhere that takes an overview.
In summary of this point, as well as catching up on things that the Web ought to be able to do, but can’t, and is therefore uncompetitive with native, I think the group should also look at areas where the Web has an advantage – and bring some thinking to bear on how this “in principle” advantage can be translated to an “in practice” advantage.
d) Summary of Things To Do
In short, there’s no shortage of things to do. The questions are mainly what to focus on, what possible participants in the group want to do and what we think are things that we can make a practical impact on. A talking shop is to some degree fine, something that makes a difference needs to deliver things as well as discuss them.
3. Organization of the Group
From discussion over the last weeks it would seem that it would make sense for the group to transition from a Community Group to an Interest Group. There are a number of benefits to this, in particular that of gaining dedicated W3C team resource. There are also a number of areas to look at, particularly how people and organizations that are unaffiliated with W3C might continue to contribute.
The group as pictured above will have a very broad remit and in order to make sensible progress on chosen topics we will need to make sure there is focus. We must also make sure that a broad range of possible participants can contribute where they feel they are particularly interested without being burdened with things that they are less interested in. This is especially important, in my view, if we are to successfully broaden our horizons and membership to include more business focused and commercial objectives. Dom has suggested that we look at the organization of – and especially the Task Force model of – the Web and TV Interest Group .
4. Timescales and plan
In order to move this forward I ask that members of the group contribute their thoughts on this general approach within the next two weeks.
Starting from the current CG charter, we will then be in a position elaborate it and turn it into an IG charter, informed by the feedback we get.
Many thanks, in advance, for your contributions on the Coremob mailing list.