Berners-Lee Issues a Call to Arms

By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2002-05-09 Print this article Print

W3C's Tim Berners-Lee challenges his colleagues not to get bogged down in arguments over existing specifications but to develop new ones while remaining focused on interoperability between standards.

HONOLULU-- Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium, opened the 11th annual International World Wide Web Conference here on Wednesday by challenging his colleagues not to get bogged down in arguments over existing specifications but to move forward and develop new ones while remaining focused on interoperability between standards. "We have so many specifications now that one of the funny things Ive noticed is that we tend to forget the basic philosophy of how everything really depends on specs," he said. "Specifications are linked together, and we cannot afford to have people reinterpreting them. We need to build solid foundations on top of what we already have." Berners-Lee, who was addressing an audience of 900 attendees from 36 countries, emphasized that developers need to create specifications for the semantic Web and for Web services just as carefully as they did when working on protocols including ftp (File Transfer Protocol), dns (Domain Naming System), and SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol). The World Wide Web Conference often acts as a forum for members of the W3C to share and discuss their work.
As always, Berners-Lee congratulated his colleagues on their efforts to develop for the World Wide Web, which he fathered in 1989. And, he reminded them that there is still much work to be done.
"The Web is a commitment between people who exchange information that they will commit to interpret information in the same way," Berners-Lee said. "In the future, we will need more formal descriptions of the term meaning. We need to be working on rules about how various headers will interact. We need to be able to validate documents." Berners-Lee also reiterated his opposition to allowing any W3C-based specifications to be covered by patent restrictions. Over the last year, the W3C has been embroiled in a controversy after a proposal to allow royalty-encumbered, patented technologies into Web standards attracted intense criticism and debate. Berners-Lee used his keynote as an opportunity to comment that he believes standards should remain royalty-free. "All the forerunners of HTTP were developed under the ethos that they were for the common all," he said. "Looking back at what we have, it doesnt take very much to realize … we should keep the same mindset. Nobody will do anything if they feel theyre doing pro bono work for a company that will charge for new versions." Berners-Lee said that, in order for the Web to continue to grow, every developer needs to have access to specifications without having to sign a licensing agreement or a non-disclosure agreement. "What were building on top is going to be much more exciting than what weve built underneath," he said. "This explosion happened because of you. You did it through interoperability and by keeping the Web open to all."
As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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