Sunday 14 September 2008

Announcing The World Wide Web Foundation

Only a mere few hours ago Tim Berners-Lee at an event in Washington, D.C. announced The World Wide Web Foundation.

The mission of the foundation is:

  • to advance One Web that is free and open,
  • to expand the Web’s capability and robustness,
  • and to extend the Web’s benefits to all people on the planet.

All well and good, of course, but wasn’t that supposed to be part of the W3C’s mission, too? The difference here is that the foundation is essentially about funding (which is something the W3C dearly needs).

“The Foundation will raise funds through a multi-faceted strategy, beginning with a $5 million seed grant over five years from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.”

There’s a fairly good overview of the program on the site, give it a look-see. I would love to feel optimistic about this, but at this point I’ve really decided that creating more groups is just adding layers of problems on top of what we’re already doing.

On the other hand, if this empowers greater outreach, education and fosters real influence in returning to the core ideals of an interoperable Web for all, then I’m all for it.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 18:09 | Comments (27)

Comments (27)

  1. Does this mean that something might actually get done? As in pushing browser manufactures and writing specifications in a timely fashion?

    I’m right there with you Molly. I can’t help but be skeptical about this. They are going to throw money at something rather then fix the underlying issues of the W3C?

    Heres to wishful thinking.

  2. I sense trouble ahead: the road to ruin is always paved with good intentions.

    A web that is “free and open.” Oy vey? Someone had better define free, and do it fast. “Open” we know: it sort of works.

    “expand the Web’s capability and robustness” Erm, I hate to be a curmudgeon (I really do), but what does one have to do with the other? The Internet is quite robust thank you very much. The web, maybe that’s less so – but are we confusing things here?

    And that capability thing – I can’t help but get goosebumps of fear whenever someone tells me they’re going to improve my lot. They usually improve their own, at the expense of mine.

    The web is beneficial? Oh. Maybe cellphones and microloans would help; maybe providing a way for people to access the web would be nice. But maybe we should stop and ask if everyone on the planet would benefit from web access? I’m not sure we do, right now.

    Oh, I’m sure it’s way too late for the objections of a dissenter like myself to derail the whole thing. But one thing is for sure: they do not have my support. I’m not against them, I just don’t support them.

    I really do get suspicious when someone tells me they are doing something for a common good. All too often, it’s for their own common good. And a nice car.

    Carolyn Ann

  3. Can we call it W3F? sounds like a formula

  4. I’ve just read the entire website. It didn’t take long, and I’m still no clearer on their goals.

    Without a clearly defined goal, and the wishy-washy, vagueness and imprecise language on their website doesn’t qualify, that group has no way of knowing how it’s doing. As the old saying goes: if you don’t know where you’re going, how do you know when you’ve got there? 🙂

    The other thing, I found this disturbing, it’s got a fib in it: “The World Wide Web was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, who envisioned an open, universal information system connecting all people.” Erm, I hate to say this: it goes against everything I’ve ever read about the start of the web, at CERN. I thought Mr Berners-Lee invented the thing so that physicists could share information across disparate systems? Did I miss something?

    What does this imply for the work they’ll be doing? Hopefully their support of academic works will have a bit more rigor than the Discovery Institute’s, but with a big glossy fib like that – well, maybe they should change that wording?

    Overall, I find more cause for concern than reassurance. Vague goals, nebulous descriptions – and a dubious relationship with accuracy? Not a good start.

    Carolyn Ann

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  9. @Carolyn Ann

    It appears that the free and open internet needs a way to help people separate rumor from real science as Tim Berners-Lee says.

    It’s was those damm conspiracy theories about a possible black hole being caused by the Large Hadron Collider that worried him. Tim goes on to say this.

    “The Foundation will also look at concerns that the web has become less democratic, and its use influenced too much by large corporations and vested interests.”

    How true, how true.

  10. Interesting move on Tim’s part. And, maybe to a point, the issue could be interpreted that even he agrees enough to make a solid point, that the W3C has perhaps compromised a lot to the large corporate entities.

    All that being said, it will be very interesting to see how this pans out in real terms. Maybe it will add another layer, maybe it will just take the conversation away from the larger commercial stakeholders and back to computer science.

    Thanks for keeping me up to date, Molly. 🙂

  11. Now having gone over and actually read Tim’s speech, yep I get it. The foundation is not about developing specifications – that’s for the W3C. The Foundation is a focal point to get the best out of where we’re going, to empower through training and providing access to the web for the other 80%, and even more interesting is to foster discussion and innovation from a number of directions – computer science for example. Ubiquitous computing applications, for example, are going to become a more prevalent part of our web experience. Or let’s say, invisible interaction, rather than experience.

    I think this is a very good thing. I think that too often I meet even hardcore web standardistas who see the web in 5 and 10 years time as HTML making static silo pages like today, only more interactive. How boring. Maybe the foundation will be proactive like the one laptop per child program or other empowering bodies, too. We need that.

    I think the W3C has it’s place. We also need pro-active dreamers, inventors, innovators and exprience designers to take us that next step [ sorry rant over lol ]. 🙂

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  13. Dubost–

    What is your honest no bullshit take on this initiative?

  14. @thacker

    For those who know me like Molly, I’m a cow from Normandy. So I don’t know how to answer your questions. There is the FAQ.

    If you ask me if it is a good initiative. Yes. If it will be useful for the Web, I definitely hope so, but only future will tell us. I have no crystal ball.

  15. Dubost–

    Thanks for the input. I never expect sooth sayings. I believe it to be a good initiative, also, and one that has been needed for quite a few years. My concern is leverage to implement/adopt. Any input in that area would be helpful to gain further perspective.

  16. “My concern is leverage to implement/adopt” *what* 🙂 The World Wide Web Foundation will help with funds some projects (after reviews I guess). Your questions would be better asked on the Foundation blog, so the appropriate persons can answer:

    Molly, the comment with the linkedin group is a spam, not related at all with the foundation. I have checked with people of the foundation.

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  18. Hey Molly,

    I’ve been thinking about this a little and while I don’t have any insider information I think that it could very well boil down to the difference between donors and members. It’s difficult to push for some programmes inside of W3C because they can go up against the will of some members. In some cases this could get ugly: what if you wanted to use W3C funds (whether member-contributed or from other sources) to develop something that could compete with one of the members’ products or interests? Conversely, what if you want to donate money for the advancement of the Web, but are worried that W3C is too much controlled by businesses to do the right thing?

    In some cases it can simply boil down to the fact that members might not want their money spent on projects they don’t care about. How many resources do you think should be alloted to Web Service gobbledygook versus how many for accessibility and technology that works in emergent markets? I’m suspecting your answer might be very different from that which a large proportion of W3C members would provide. I know mine is!

    I can see an interesting potential division of labour whereby the Foundation has pretty much free-reign over research, development, outreach, even lobbying if need be — anything that helps the Web irrespective of what individual companies may think right now — whereas W3C remains the place where the industry engages to produce standards.

    Again I don’t know if that’s what’s going on and I am certainly wary about spreading efforts over too many places. But I think there’s a case to be made about not sharing the same umbrella if you’re going different places.

    Take care, hope I’ll see you in Cannes!

  19. I agree that it may just be layering problems over the old platform, but perhaps there needs to be a new platform. Either way, let’s hope it’s well-implemented and has increased utility for the masses.

  20. Molly, maybe some in America are aware of the dangers to come.

  21. Sounds to me like they’re setting themselves up for some political handouts or politically motivated grant money. Please don’t do it!! Whatever you do please keep the funding private!!! We don’t need politics polluting the web! (For the common good!!!) geeez.

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