What's Next for the Web? Ask the Inventor
After nine World Wide Web Conferences and more than ten years of development, the Web still needs work, says Web pioneer and
Making various Web languages work together, bringing Web functions to mobile computing devices, and providing the Web's benefits to people in rural areas and developing countries are among the tasks developers still face, Berners-Lee says. His presentation kicked off the 10th World Wide Web Conference in Hong Kong recently.
Berners-Lee also announced another piece of progress: formal approval of the XML Schema as a W3C recommendation, the final sign-off for a W3C standard. XML Schema defines how programmers should describe content using XML, which can put an identifying tag on any piece of content on the Web.
Now "there's an XML language for defining XML languages," Berners-Lee says. He says it's one more of a handful of standards that help make the Web easier to navigate. Still, he sees more work ahead.
New kinds of interfaces, such as voice input, and helping computers talk to each other for automated Web services also are key tasks, Berners-Lee says.
We also need a way for Web-based buyers to keep a proof of purchase for their online shopping, he suggests.
Consumers and businesses may keep canceled checks as proof of payment, but "you don't keep your [Internet Protocol] packets," Berners-Lee says. Documents on the Web should be identifiable so that they can be examined later, even after Web formats change.
Another key technology now being polished by the W3C is Resource Description Framework, which ensures information exchange among different applications on various systems on the Web. RDF uses XML to exchange descriptions of any Web resources, including non-XML resources. Corporations are starting to recognize the value of RDF, he says.
Conference attendees applauded the approval of the XML Schema, which is intended as a standard way to describe the contents of different kinds of Web documents.
"The XML Schema is just way more powerful. It allows you to be more expressive in the way you describe your documents," says Stefan Edlund, an IBM software designer. The technology will be important for business-to-business commerce, Edlund says.
The XML Schema will help make Web content definitions more consistent, says Amit Singal, a senior research scientist at Google.
"It's going to make all kinds of data interchange possible that's not possible today," Singal says.
A colleague of Singal's, however, cautions that the recent approval is only one step.
"It's a milestone, yes, but it's still going to have a lot of flux," says Soumen Chakrabarti, an assistant professor in the computer science and engineering department at the Indian Institute of Technology.