December 3, 2004 Ten Years after the Establishment of W3C

Kazuhito Kidachi
Front-end Engineer, Web Development Team

I am currently in Boston, the heartland of American independence. I am here to attend the Advisory Committee Meeting-a meeting that brings all the members of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) together under the one roof. The Meeting was previously held in May in New York, but this time around, it is being held here, close to one of the W3C hosts, the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL). In the lead up to the two-day meeting, a special event was held today to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the W3C.

The W3C10 event took the form of a symposium, which W3C members and other invited guests attended. The chair of the symposium was Mr. Bob Metcalf, inventor of Ethernet and Internet pioneer, a man to whom everybody using networks today owes a debt of gratitude. In this column I want to give you an overview of the symposium, and finally, would like to tell you about my thoughts on the future of W3C and this company.

W3C10

Kicking off the Welcome Session was MIT President, Charles Vest. He provided an introduction to the OpenCourseWare Project currently being promoted by the University in which all lecture materials are being made available over the Internet. He also acknowledged the efforts of the W3C. The University's efforts to make everything from study materials through to past exam questions available online are indeed groundbreaking, and are anticipated to yield even further successes in the future.

At the "How It All Started" event, inventor of the Web and W3C Director, Mr. Tim Berners-Lee spoke. He tracked back to the fictitious Memex machine proposed by Mr. Vannevar Bush in 1945, which was designed to link up all his books and documents on microfiche, and reflected on how this lead to the actualization of the concept of hypertext, and to the formation of the W3C in 1994. It is truly awe-inspiring to think that well before I was even born, there were many people tirelessly laying the foundations for what is the Web today.

At the Impact on Science and Industry, some real-life examples were given of how Web standards are being put to use in the travel, distribution and retail industries. All of these stories had something in common; the benefits achieved from adopting the standards and the massive role that the W3C, which formulates many of these standards plays. Many say there is no point in looking back and asking "What if?", but, indeed, what if the W3C and Web standards did not exist? I really don't think that the Web would have seen the success that it has today.

Mr. Lee Rainie from the Pew Internet & American Life Project spoke at the Impact on Society and Culture event, using statistical data to present an analytical picture of what Internet users today are like. I personally got to thinking about how we should approach the issue of the Digital Gap, which is the gap that is generated by the fact that there are some people who have access to computers and the Internet and others who don't. Accessibility is yet another important issue in a different dimension and on a different level yet again to the issue of Web content.

At the Web of Meaning event, which was the first to follow on from lunch in the afternoon session, spoke Mr. Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media, a company that has published countless technical manuals and reference books. He provided a commentary on the significance of increasing active user participation and the collection of metadata (data about data), citing the example of the online bookstore Amazon.com. He referred to online services such as Amazon, Google, and eBay as "Infoware," and I feel that in using this term he very succinctly expresses the API (application programming interface) side of the Internet.

Taking the podium at the Web on Everything event was Mr. Takeshi Natsuno from NTT DoCoMo, the only Japanese company at the symposium. Despite having received a cool reception five years earlier when they explained how HTML could be used on mobile phones, this time around Mr. Takeshi focused on the fact that the success of i-mode today provides many people with access to the Web via their mobile phones. Personally, the interrelationship between mobile devices and the Web is a topic of intense interest to me, and I am really looking forward to what the future will hold as handsets become more sophisticated and become capable of broadband communications. W3C is likely to step up activity in the area of mobile technology in the future as well.

Earlier I wrote about the Digital Gap, and the Web for Everyone event at the symposium looked at the Digital Divide. In this part of the symposium, discussion centered on measures for enabling access to the Web regardless of the country or region people live in and regardless of the languages they speak and the differences in their cultures, and emphasized the importance of accessibility for Web contents.

The decade that's been - the decade to come

The explosive growth of the Web has had an immeasurable effect on mankind, so much so that it is difficult to put into words. And now, the W3C, an organization that has made by far the greatest contribution to this expansion, celebrates its 10th anniversary. To different people, ten years might seem like a long or a short time, but I am eagerly awaiting the 20th anniversary and the further progress that will have been made by then.

At two Web standards seminars held by the Company in the past I have discussed how vitally important Web standards and the activities of the W3C are to the past, present, and future development of the Web. Being able to participate in this symposium and listen to the series of presentations made only served to further cement my belief in this fact.

Because of the importance of their activities, the W3C must further international cooperation in the future and continue to formulate Web standards with true value that will be readily accepted. At the same time the formulation of these standards cannot be just taken for granted; an effort needs to be made to actively expand them. I hope that we too, now that we have become a member of the W3C, coincidentally as the organization achieves its ten-year milestone, will think again about what we can do to contribute to these activities and put those initiatives into practice.

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