W3C Technical Architecture Group Produces "Architecture of the World Wide Web"

Author(s) and publish date


TAG Publishes First in Series of Documents to Capture Basic Web Principles


http://www.w3.org/ -- 10 December 2003 -- The World Wide Web Consortium announced the publication of "Architecture of the World Wide Web" at the IDEAlliance XML 2003 Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The authors of this document, W3C's Technical Architecture Group (TAG), invite review by the community of this description of principles that guide the evolution of the World Wide Web. The TAG invites comments on the First Edition by 5 March 2004; see the TAG home page for more information about the review.

Web Architecture Group Distills Conventional Wisdom

In November 2001, W3C responded to a clear demand from the Web community and the W3C Membership to write down a description of the architecture of the Web. The architecture has been described and debated many times in the past, but has not been described in a single, coherent document by a group of acknowledged experts, and reviewed in such a focused manner by the community.

"The nine people on the TAG today have had a hand in many parts of the design of the Web," explains Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director, and co-Chair of the TAG. "In the Architecture Document, they describe how it works. They emphasize what characteristics of the Web must be preserved when inventing new technology. They notice where the current systems don't adhere well, and as a result show weakness. This document is a pithy summary of the wisdom of community."

The TAG conducts its work on an active, public mailing list, which helps ensure that its description of the Web reflects the real world concerns of developers.

URIs, HTTP, and HTML Anchor the Information Space

Invented less than 15 years ago by Tim Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web has become a social and economic fixture that is almost taken for granted in many parts of the world. One search engine alone reports indexing more than three trillion pages. What design choices have enabled such rapid growth? What design choices allow pages to rise and fall independently, as well as Web software? The architecture of the Web is those properties we desire of it (including the ability to grow unbridled) and the design choices made to achieve those properties (including decentralized development of pages).

The Web architecture consists of three fundamental concepts: identification (URIs), interaction (protocols such as HTTP and SOAP), and representation (formats such as HTML, SVG, and PNG). These three branches are typified by the familiar user experience of using a browser to click on a link that identifies a Web site, leading to interaction with the Web site (referred to generically as a "Web resource"), and then to the display of information in the browser.

Some of the important topics covered by the Architecture Document include important considerations when managing a Web server, such as persistence; how to take advantage of "safe" Web interactions and allow bookmarking and caching; and pitfalls to avoid when using content negotiation. The document also explains how XML fits into the Web, and how to ensure that new formats "play well" on the Web.

Through stories, examples, and references to supplementary TAG findings, the Architecture Document explains the impact of the design on real world issues ranging from designing and registering new document formats to managing a Web server.

W3C Invites Broad Review Now, More to Follow

Although the Web begins with identification, interaction, and representation, it does not end there. According to Berners-Lee, "This document does not solve all of the world's problems. However, it does advance the state of the art. The TAG wanted to publish the First Edition now because it includes a lot of material that the community has wanted to find in a readable document."

W3C chartered the TAG as a permanent body with W3C, with participants elected and appointed to two-year terms, to follow and guide the evolving architecture of the Web. The TAG is one example of how W3C coordinates the development of Web technology as part of its mission.

Those TAG participants nominated and elected by the W3C Membership (in alphabetical order by last name), are:

  • Paul Cotton, Chair of W3C XML Query Working Group and Member of the XML Protocol Working Group (Microsoft Corporation)
  • Roy Fielding, Co-author of HTTP/1.1 (Day Consulting and Chairman of the Apache Software Foundation)
  • David Orchard, Member of the W3C XML Core and XML Protocol Working Groups (BEA Systems)
  • Norman Walsh, Member of the W3C XSL and XML Core Working Groups, and the URI Interest Group (Sun Microsystems)
  • Stuart Williams, TAG Co-Chair and former Member of the W3C XML Protocol Working Group (Hewlett-Packard Company)

Those TAG participants appointed by the W3C Director (in alphabetical order by last name) are:

  • Tim Bray, Co-editor of W3C XML 1.0 (Antarcti.ca)
  • Dan Connolly, Semantic Web developer, former W3C HTML Working Group Chair and XML Activity Lead (W3C)
  • Chris Lilley, Chair, W3C SVG Working Group, and W3C Graphics Activity Lead (W3C)

About the World Wide Web Consortium [W3C]

The W3C was created to lead the Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability. It is an international industry consortium jointly run by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France and Keio University in Japan. Services provided by the Consortium include: a repository of information about the World Wide Web for developers and users, and various prototype and sample applications to demonstrate use of new technology. To date, nearly 400 organizations are Members of the Consortium. For more information see http://www.w3.org/


Contact --
Janet Daly, <janet@w3.org>, +1.617.253.5884 or +1.617.253.2613

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