Web standards

Updates

19 May 2016 | W3C's Media Capture and Streams Candidate Recommendation

The Web Real-Time Communications Working Group and Device and Sensors Working Group have published a Candidate Recommendation of Media Captures and Streams. This document defines a set of JavaScript APIs that allow local media, including audio and video, to be requested from a platform. It also defines APIs for requesting access to local multimedia devices, such as microphones or video cameras.

15 Mar 2016 | W3C Invites Implementations of WOFF File Format 2.0

The WebFonts Working Group invites implementation of the Candidate Recommendation of WOFF File Format 2.0. Based on experience with WOFF 1.0, which is widely deployed, this specification was developed to provide improved compression and thus lower use of network bandwidth, while still allowing fast decompression even on mobile devices. This format was designed to provide lightweight, easy-to-implement compression of font data, suitable for use with CSS @font-face rules. Any properly licensed TrueType/OpenType/Open Font Format file can be packaged in WOFF format for Web use. User agents decode the WOFF file to restore the font data such that it will display identically to the input font.

The WOFF format also allows additional metadata to be attached to the file; this can be used by font designers or vendors to include licensing or other information, beyond that present in the original font. Such metadata does not affect the rendering of the font in any way, but may be displayed to the user on request.

The WOFF format is not intended to replace other formats such as TrueType/OpenType/Open Font Format or SVG fonts, but provides an alternative solution for use cases where these formats may be less optimal, or where licensing considerations make their use less acceptable.

18 Feb 2016 | The World Wide Web Consortium is looking into new authentication methods that would eliminate passwords

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has created a Web Authentication Working Group tasked with developing standards for new authentication methods that would eliminate the use of passwords and replace them with multi-factor authentication and strong cryptographic operations. According to the group charter, user-centric privacy considerations of device management and credentials are to be taken into account in the development process. The group is expected to present its results by December 2016.

Pages

Web standards are a set of formal standards and technical specifications for the world wide web. They ensure that content is accessible across devices and configurations, and therefore provide the core rules for developing websites.

The main content and applications standards include: HyperText Markup Language (HTML), a plain text language which makes use of tags to define the structure of the document; eXtensible Markup Language (XML), another type of language used for sharing structured information; Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) a language used in conjunction with HTML to control the presentation of web pages; and eXtensible HTML (XHTML), an extended version of HTML which uses stricter rules.

 

Web standards in context

By the late 1980s, the battle of network standards was over. TCP/IP gradually became the main network protocol, marginalising other standards. While the Internet facilitated normal communication between a variety of networks via TCP/IP (see Technical Standards), the system still lacked common applications standards.

A solution was developed by Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva, consisting of a new standard for sharing information over the Internet, called HTML. Content displayed on the Internet first had to be organised according to HTML standards. HTML, as the basis of the World Wide Web, paved the way for the Internet’s exponential growth.

Since its first version, HTML has been constantly upgraded with new features. The growing relevance of the Internet has put the question of the standardisation of HTML into focus. This was particularly relevant during the Browser Wars between Netscape and Microsoft, when each company tried to strengthen its market position by influencing HTML standards. While basic HTML only handled text and photos, newer Internet applications required more sophisticated technologies for managing databases, video, and animation. Such a variety of applications required considerable standardisation efforts in order to ensure that Internet content could be properly viewed by the majority of Internet browsers.

Application standardisation entered a new phase with the emergence of XML, which provided greater flexibility in the setting of standards for Internet content. New sets of XML standards were also been introduced, such as the standard for the distribution of wireless content called Wireless Markup Language (WML).

Setting web standards

The main web standard-setting institution is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), headed by Tim Berners-Lee. Standards are developed through an elaborate process which aims to promote consensus, fairness, public accountability, and quality. At the end of the process, standards are published in the form of Recommendations.

When it comes to an open approach to standards development, W3C – in addition to other bodies such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and the Internet Society – subscribes to the Open Stand initiative, an affirmation of principles that encourages the development of open and global market-driven standards.

W3C standards define an open platform for the development of applications, which enables developers to build rich interactive experiences. W3C states that ‘although the boundaries of the platform continue to evolve, industry leaders speak nearly in unison about how HTML5 will be the cornerstone for this platform.’

It is interesting to note that in spite of its high relevance to the Internet, so far, the W3C has not attracted much attention in the debate on Internet governance.

Other institutions involved in standards include the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA), an association of companies whose main role is to develop Standards and Technical Reports.

Possible gaps in dealing with web standards

As with technical standards, the possible gap in the development of web standards is related to the coverage of non-technical aspects (e.g. human rights, competition policy, and security). Web standards have an even stronger impact on these non-technical aspects since, more so than technical standards, they shape the ways in which the Internet is accessed and used.

Events

Actors

(W3C)

W3C’s work is guided by its goal to ensure that the web is a resource all people can benefit from, irrespectiv

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W3C’s work is guided by its goal to ensure that the web is a resource all people can benefit from, irrespective of hardware, software, network infrastructure, language, culture, or geographical locations. Standards and guidelines developed by the W3C fall within one of the following categories: web design and applications (standards for building and rendering web pages, such as HTML, CSS, SVG), web of devices (standards for enabling web access anywhere, anytime, via any device), web architecture (identifiers, protocols, meta formats, etc.), semantic web (standards for a ‘web of data’), Extensible Markup Language (XML) technologies, web of services (XML, SOAP, etc.), and browser and authoring tools.

(IETF)

The core mission of the IETF is to develop technical standards for the Internet, ranging from Internet protoco

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The core mission of the IETF is to develop technical standards for the Internet, ranging from Internet protocols (e.g. IPv4 and IPv6) and the Domain Name System (e.g. aspects related to the functioning of Internationalised Domain Names), to routing systems and security issues. Areas of work covered by IETF working groups include applications (e.g. real time communication and audio/video transport), Internet protocols, operations and management (e.g. DNS operations, routing operations, network configuration), routing (e.g. inter-domain routing, tunneling protocol extensions), security and transport (e.g. authentication and authorisation, IP security maintenance and extensions, and transport layer security).

(UNECE)

UNECE, through its subsidiary body CEFACT, has been involved, together with the Organization for the Advanceme

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UNECE, through its subsidiary body CEFACT, has been involved, together with the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, in the development of the Electronic Business using eXtensible Markup Language (ebXML) standard. ebXML contains specifications which enable enterprises around the world to conduct business over the Internet, as it provides a standard method to exchange business messages, conduct trading relationship, communicate data in common terms, and define and register business processes.

(CERN)

The World Wide Web (WWW) was developed

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The World Wide Web (WWW) was developed at CERN, in 1989, by Tim Berners-Lee. The aim was to allow for automatic information-sharing between universities and research institutes around the world. The first website was also created at CERN, dedicated to the WWW project itself. In 1992, the first readily accessible browser for the WWW was launched. In 1993, the WWW software was put in the public domain and made freely available, thus allowing the web to further develop. The HyperText Markup Language (HTML) and the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) were developed at CERN as well, based on a proposal from Berners-Lee.

(OASIS)

As part of its work on developing open standards for the information society, OASIS also produces web-related

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As part of its work on developing open standards for the information society, OASIS also produces web-related standards. Examples include specifications related to the Electronic Business Extensible Markup Language (ebXML), Electronic Markup Language, Emergency Data Exchange Language, Web Services Business Process Execution Language, Web Services Distributed Management, Web Services Security, and Web Services RealiableMessaging. Currently, technical committee within OASIS work on issues such as defining a ubiquitous, secure, reliable and open Internet protocol for handling business messaging (the Advanced Message Queuing Protocol committee), and advancing digital signature services standards for XML (the Digital Signature Services eXtended committee).

(Ecma)

A large part of Ecma’s activity is dedicated to defining standards and technical reports for information and c

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A large part of Ecma’s activity is dedicated to defining standards and technical reports for information and communication technologies (hardware, software, communications, media storage, etc.). This work is carried out through technical committees and task groups, focusing on issues such as: safety standards for information technology equipment, standards for data interchange and storage by means of digitally recorder systems, standards for wireless communications, TV white spaces standards, standards for next generation corporate networks, and standards for smart data centres. The standards and technical reports developed in committees and groups are subject to vote in the Ecma General Assembly.

Resources

Publications

Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)

Papers

A Security Analysis of Emerging Web Standards. HTML5 and Friends, from Specification to Implementation (2012)
Wireless Application Protocol WAP 2.0 Technical White Paper (2002)
A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication (1974)

 

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