W3C Documents the Architecture of the Web

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At an October meeting in Basel, Switzerland, the World Wide Web Consortium’s Technical Architecture Group (TAG) completed and released a final working document titled “Architecture of the World Wide Web”.

The TAG is accepting public comments on this final draft until early December, when it will go for a final ratification as a first edition and formal release.

The document seeks to gather and organize architectural and structural elements of what makes up the web in a central document. The W3C’s TAG was formed in 2001 to do just that by documenting and promoting standards-based principles of web architecture.

It targets both the hobbyist and professional content and architecture developers, bringing to the forefront the fundamentals and core web standards. It also sets the stage for new web-related technologies those developers may adopt moving forward.

The group’s members include Chair Tim Berners-Lee (W3C) and:

  • co-Chair Stuart Williams (Hewlett-Packard)
  • Dan Connolly (W3C)
  • Paul Cotton (Microsoft)
  • Roy Fielding (Day Software)
  • Chris Lilley (W3C)
  • Noah Mendelsohn (IBM)
  • Norm Walsh (Sun)

Group member Chris Lilley (also Chair of the SVG Working Group) took a break from work to speak with SitePoint about the TAG’s documentation mission.l

Q: What is the TAG’s perspective on this document?

A: WebArch writes down and makes available to others, information about how the Web works. Some of this was written down before, but scattered all over; some was poorly explained, and a lot of it was not really written down at all but formed a sort of hidden knowledge, of people who had been involved in the Web for many years. This was a high entry barrier for, as you say, the hobbyist and was actually a barrier for the professional as well.

Of course, writing down the ‘hidden knowledge’ has risk – other people may find it to be untrue, or no longer true, or have implementation experience that conflicts. This is why developing WebArch in a public discussion list, www-tag@w3.org, was vital. This development culminated in a Last Call (in fact, two of them) to really be sure that what we had written down was true, valid, and relevant. WebArch just recently went to Proposed Recommendation, the last stage before becoming a W3C Recommendation (a Web Standard).

Q: Does this help shift the focus or encourage more attention to be given to XML for web developers and content authors who may not have devoted time to it as of yet?

A: One part of WebArch does discuss when it is appropriate to use XML – and when it is not, for example video data. It also gives guidance on good practices for using XML. So yes, it will hep in that area, as we move to more of a standards-based Web.

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