Internet – World Wide Web Consortium

W3C LogoThe perception is that the internet is without controls or standards and while there is truth in this idea the reality is that an organization founded by Tim Berners-Lee, The World Wide Web Consortium, is largely in charge. The W3C is located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and manages the standards for the World Wide Web.

Standards might not be exactly what you think they are. It is not an organization concerned with moral or ethical factors. The standards of the internet are the programming languages used by those who create web pages. It is an important organization because there are a number of different browsers like Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and others less well-known. Each of these browsers interprets documents or pages which are written in languages like HTML, XHTML, CSS, ASP, and many others. If there were no standards on how to construct pages then browsers would have an impossible task trying to interpret whatever people used.

However, I don’t want to spend this blog in a technical discussion of web site building, alphabet soups of initialisms, and things of that nature. I do want to talk about how the W3C standards function on the basis of what works best. This embodies the ideas of Ayn Rand and Ojectivism. Rand envisioned a society where the most creative and dynamic people were allowed to pursue their dreams without restraint and were rewarded for those efforts. She believed that such a society would develop generation after generation of achievers. I’m not going to comment on her philosophy as a whole here and now, but I do think there is a lot of merit to this idea.

Now, as for the W3C. While the member groups of the W3C decide on the standards there is a specific process of making these decisions that works as follows:

  1. Working Draft
  2. Last Call Working Draft
  3. Call for implementation
  4. Call for Review of a Proposed Recommendation
  5. W3C Recommendation (REC).

The basic gist of this is that proposals are created and sent out to every web developer to use as they see fit. This is what we chess players call Best by Test. In chess it is often jokingly referred to as the first move of 1. e4 but there is deep meaning in the phrase. In this case it means that a web standard has been used by literally millions of people and after an analysis phase deemed to be superior to other methods. Were that everything in life went through such a process. Think about all the things you do at work and at home and imagine if millions of people tested each process first and came up with the most efficient way to do it!

This is a powerful, powerful tool.

This is something that is available to us as a world thanks to the ability to communicate across any distance with anyone who is connected to the internet. The potential to create products, methods, processes, and communicate ideas is open to each person on earth. Everyone can contribute and more ideas, more tests, more people doing crazy experiments increases the potential for better things.

So, in summation, the W3C does things in a fashion that should be emulated. Use the power of the internet and its ability to reach billions of people to test your ideas. Don’t be afraid of the new technology as, sadly, many industries remain. Be a leader at your company. It’s a new way of thinking about things but one well worthwhile!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Internet – Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim Berners-LeeTwo days ago I discussed how the DARPA government agency conceived of and funded the creation of the first internet. Then yesterday I spoke about Al Gore’s role in the development of the internet. Today I’ll talk about a fellow named Tim Berners-Lee who was and remains instrumental in the World Wide Web.

First let’s discuss the difference between the WWW and the Internet because I think there is a lot of confusion. The internet is simply all the computers that communicate with one another. This involves an alphabet soup of acronyms none more important that TCP/IP but I don’t want this to get blog to get too technical. The WWW is all the documents connected by hypertext. This sounds strange but every time you visit a web page you are seeing a document and said file is being “rendered” by your browser into images and text.

Sir Tim, as he is now known, wrote a proposal in 1989 that involved using something called hypertext to link documents. He along with Robert Cailliau then refined their proposal envisioning the WWW accessed by people like us using browsers. Sir Tim then created a Web Server, a computer with files that could be interpreted by the first web browser that he also created. He then posted this information and made his server available to all comers. In doing this he created some of the alphabet soup I spoke about earlier, HTTP, HTML, and URL. Again, I won’t go into details but these paved the way for the web we know and love today.

The big turning point came, as I mentioned yesterday, with the creation of the first easy to use web browser, Mosiac, created with money funded by the Gore Bill.

The important factor here is that Sir Tim didn’t charge anyone for any of this. He released the information freely unto the public where everyone immediately began to contribute and the WWW was truly born. If you had to pay a fee for every transfer of information, above and beyond your carrier fee, there is no way the WWW would have sprung to life so quickly.

It’s a hard pill to swallow for a capitalistic libertarian like myself but there is something to be said for the Open Source movement as far as getting tools into the hands of those who can make the best use of them. I’m going to talk more about Open Source later in the week. You can hardly wait, I’d bet!

Sir Tim went on to fund the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which currently sets the standards for the web and I’ll tak about that later in the week as well.

For today, I’ll wrap it up with a tribute to Sir Tim. Without him the internet would not exist today and we all have him to thank. So, if you’ve never heard of him take a moment follow my link to the Wikipedia article or at the very least say, “Thanks, Sir Tim,” when you open your web browser to go about your daily business.

See you tomorrow!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist