Keeping Web Services Royalty-Free

World Wide Web Consortium Director Tim Berners-Lee says key to preserving openness on the Web keeping standard Web protocols patent and royalty-free.

BOSTON—Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium, opened The Open Group Conference here on Monday by asking his colleagues to preserve the universality and openness of the Web as they build Web services as the foundation for the future of the Internet. And, said Berners-Lee, a key to preserving openness on the Web is to keep standard Web protocols patent and royalty-free.

"Remember that the ways to use Web services will not only be wide, but will be the base for all kinds of things people will build for the Web in the future," Berners-Lee said. "We have to be generic in design because Web services, if done well, will be flexible and apply to everything from mainframes to cell phones."

Berners-Lee, who is widely regarded as the father of the World Wide Web, emphasized that Web services have the power to change the world and, as such, need to be developed with interoperability in mind. "There is a common good in making an interoperable specification," he said. "The whole explosion of the Web would not have happened if it had not been open and completely patent and royalty free."

Berners-Lee said maintaining an open, royalty-free approach will be important for both Web services and semantic Web standards. (Web services standards like SOAP and UDDI focus on how online services are found and how they interact, while semantic Web standards include industry-specific markup languages that help define the nature and behavior of objects online.) Although the two sets of standards are currently being pursued in separate, parallel tracks, Berners-Lee predicted that the semantic Web will become increasingly important as Web services mature. As such, the future of the Internet, he said, will revolve around Web services, voice routing, and the semantic Web. Berners-Lee said that, in order for all or any of those capabilities to see market growth, the base standards need to be patent- free. How that will happen is an issue the W3C has been grappling with over the past year.

"The W3C is working on a process so people used to using patents to protect themselves can sit around a table and come to an agreement where no one will charge royalties regardless of whether they have a patent," he said. "Who is charging money for Internet protocols today? Nobody."

For the conference The Open Group partnered with organizations including the W3C, OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards), OMG (Open Management Group), OGC (Open GIS Consortium), OAG (Open Applications Group) and DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) to address the future and the development of Web services and associated standards.

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