Sophia : the W3C grows over the stage of 500 members
Founded in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee, the World Wide Web Consortium, which has one of its three world pole located in the INRIA, has provided the Web universality. A historic role.
Although it is not very famous to the general public, it is, with the ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute), one of the main institutions of Sophia Antipolis in the NICT industry (New Information and communication technologies). The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), had been created in 1994 in the United-States, by Tim Berners-Lee, the Internet “father” in the premises of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science. A second world pole had been set up afterwards in Europe, in the INRIA (French national institute for research in computer science and control) of Sophia Antipolis. Then, a third Asiatic pole has been opened at the Keio University in Japan.Since then, the W3C has grown up. Just before the tenth annual conference in Hong-Kong, from May 1st to 5th 2001, in the presence of Tim Berners-Lee, the Consortium has announced that it has grown to over 500 member organizations from 34 countries. The members list is composed of industries, research institutes, governmental organizations, citizen groups, and of every other organization committed in the development of the Web and in its universality.The basic components of the Web architectureWhat is the W3C used for ? Let’s just say that they are at the origin of the universality of the Web. Just like the ETSI has allowed us to use GSM phones in every European country, thanks to magic common norms. Twenty years ago, people bought software that only worked with other software from the same provider. Nowadays, people have more freedom to choose, and they are entitled to expect interchangeable software components. As well, they want to be able to manage some Web content with their favourite software – desktop graphic browser, speech synthesiser, Braille display or even mobile phones.Six years ago, Tim Berners-Lee has created the Consortium as a place for designing and standardisation of Web architecture components. At that time, in 1994, while the Web was threatened to be divided up, the W3C has invited protagonists to meet, to discuss and to work together. So, basic Web technologies were born, allowing Web content creators to use languages such as HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), XML (Extensible Markup Language), XHTML (Extensible Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).The W3C, a vendor-neutral organization, promotes interoperability of the Web by the creation and the promotion of languages and protocols (non proprietary) that avoid the market fragmentation as it happened in the past. That was achieved through consensus between members and open discussion forums.To make the Web accessible to everybodyThe W3C is piloted by three sites : the MIT in the USA, the INRIA in France and Keio University in Japan, in order of their joining. Each site has many experts who supervises the works in progress in one in 22 W3C’s activities. The importance of the technical team, more than 65 people all over the world, makes the W3C unique among other standard bodies.One of the first aims of the W3C is to make the Web technologies accessible to everybody, whatever software, hardware, network infrastructure, natural tongue, cultural environment, geographical place, physical or mental abilities are. The W3C efforts focus particularly on activities which allow an universal access to the Web and which deal with Internationalization, Device Independence, Voice Browser and Web accessibility initiative (WAI). In that sense, the World Wide Web Consortium keep on being the main promoter of the universality of the Web. A role which will mark the story of the 21st century !