WWW5: the state of WWW standards


categories of standards:

there are three categories of standards:

  1. content, such as HTML, MIME etc.
  2. protocols, mainly HTTP
  3. naming, anything that starts with UR..

standards are defined by the "Internet Engineering Task Force " (IETF) which is THE Internet standard organization. it hosts various working groups (WG), such as the:


content standards:

since the first Web conference in 1994, there was always a lot of innovation, but much outside of standardization. this may have been ok until now, but there is a need for standardization in the future.


protocol standards:

there are three major activities in protocol standardization:


HTTP protocol V1.0 added some features to the V0.9 "preliminary standard", but was never established as an official standard. there is an informational RFC, which has no number assigned yet. HTTP V1.0 includes:

HTTP V1.1 will clarify some open issues, but will mainly focus on performance improvements.

HTTP V1.2 will fix everything that was not yet solved in V1.1

HTTP-NG (Next Generation) will be a major redesign of HTTP.


naming standards:

naming standards include Unified Resource Locator (URL), Unified Resource Name (URN), and Unified Resource Characteristic (URC). but so far, only URLs have been defined.


the future of HTML:

will there be any HTML standard ever ? "i believe there will never be an HTML V3.0 standard !", said david raggett. we are in the period of innovation rather than conversions. the IETF HTML working group was not followed by the industrial leaders, instead they went different directions. it might be appropriate to close the HTML working group !

possible extensions are:

instead of a standard, there might be an HTML feature identification, which might support mechanisms to:

note to the reader: when reading the above section, you are probably confused about what's going on here. one of my key message was the announcement of HTML V3.2 and now it is not even mentioned. that's exactly what happened in paris: this talk was given on may 7 and they pictured a very dark and rather anarchic future of HTML. only to surprise the audience with the "magic" press release about HTML V3.2 the very next day ...


future of MIME:

a revision of MIME types definitions is in progress. a new hierarchical name space for vendor-defined data types like application/vnd.ms-excel is under development. because there is much activity outside standardization, registration might be an alternative to standardization.


future of HTTP:

today, HTTP traffic clogs the Internet. some trans-ocean links are always congested. multiple connections create self-congestion (some browsers open a link for each image on a page). spiders and robots add additional load to the network.

prospective growth:

toward better Web performance, we need:

HTTP V1.1 highlights:

main goal: improve performance !
plus:

HTTP V1.2 may add other features. the version numbering may change !

HTTP-NG (Next Generation)

the next generation of HTTP may not be backward compatible. it may allow multiple transports.


future of Web Transaction Security (WTS):

S-HTTP has been proposed as a standard. it provides connection based security with SSL (Secure Socket Layer). digest authentication may be an alternative, but it is not as strong as desired. payment on the Internet is a big issue today, there might be a need for an IPAY working group.


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WWW5 WWW standards / 28-may-96 (ra) / reto ambühler