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trip report from the eighth World Wide Web conference in toronto, canada


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this report was updated daily during the conference, last update: 17-jun-1999.

table of contents:

  1. pre-conference activities - from new york to toronto by car
  2. summary
  3. what i DID like and what i did NOT like
  4. tutorial 5: electronic payment systems
  5. tutorial 11: web security and beyond
  6. first day (wed 12-may-1999)
  7. second day (thu 13-may-1999)
  8. developers day
  9. documentation
  10. other trip reports
  11. post-conference activities - from toronto to new york by car

summary:

overall, i found this conference a very positive experience. toronto was a nice place, a world wide web in itself, as the speaker said during the opening ceremony. the huge underground metro convention center - which hosts events with up to 40'000 attendees - provided every service we needed. the computer room was ready before the conference started (!), the Internet connection was stable and very fast and they had even set up a DHCP server, so there is really nothing to complain about - they did a great job !

two very special highlights during the conference were the interesting and very entertaining talks by john patrick, vice president internet technology of IBM and robert metcalfe, vice president technology of the International Data Group. john patrick - who appeared with beard and no tie - is still THE Internet enthusiast. according to him, in the future, almost everything will include a web browser, the phone (= webphone), the cellular phone, the pager, the watch and even the "boombox" (portable radio). we will do business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week over the Internet and geo-independent.
robert metcalfe spoke during the closing ceremony and his talk was again humorous and intelligent as at the last three or four conferences. he summarized what he had heard during the conference: from tim berners lee's vision of a semantic web to SUN's greg papadopoulos' evolution theory (computing evolves from disk oriented to net-centric to now object oriented). robert again made a number of predictions, but this time refused to promise that he will eat his column if he's wrong :...

i attended two tutorials dedicated to e-commerce. the morning tutorial was called "electronic payment systems", the afternoon tutorial was called "web security and beyond", both were given by the same author. the former tutorial gave an overview of the currently available electronic payment systems. but beside paying by credit card - preferable over a secure connection - non of the suggested systems have gained wide acceptance so far. obstacles are the need to install a special software and the incompatibility of the various systems. and even if a third party in the customer - merchant relation would introduce some privacy (the credit card information would no longer be exposed to the merchant), people seem not (yet) ready to thrust this third party.
the later tutorial analyzed the special security requirements of an e-commerce server. while the primary security goals used to be to keep out everyone who was not supposed to use a particular computer system, in an e-commerce environment, we want to grant to the - maybe even anonymous - customer at least some access to some information. in addition, e-commerce server tend to be a very attractive target to criminals because the represent value and are a vital part of a company's business. the owner has to protect the sensitive data of his customers and the system has to be operational to do business.
even at an university, e-commerce may become an interesting and important issue, e.g. if they operate a web based registration system which allows attendees to register to events where they have to pay for.

at WWW8, jakob lindenmeyer and i presented a poster about accessibility of web pages. this poster originally was submitted as a paper, but together with more than 250 other submitted papers, didn't make it into the program. nevertheless, we consider our presentation very successfully. we got a lot of attention and even some representatives of the W3 consortium visited our booth and we had the opportunity to discuss various topics related to accessibility. it helped us a lot that the W3C released their Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG) just a few days before the conference started. unfortunately, "accessibility" means to many - if not most - people: boring, text-only web pages designed for people with disabilities. but in reality, web pages designed with accessibility in mind means: providing alternate content suitable for any type of browser, including graphical, text based, voice browsers and devices with small or otherwise limited displays (e.g. car radios or cellular phones with built in web browsers). and - after all, access to information is a right, not a privilege ! one example of how little some designers care about accessibility is the NETHZ project, see accessibility reports for the top frame and the bluebar produced by Bobby.

during the two days of the paper presentations, i mainly attended the sessions of the W3C. again, accessibility and design for mobile devices was an important topic. in addition, the W3C presented the latest versions of their open source software, including LibWWW - their HTTP V1.1 library, Amaya - their combined web browser and authoring tool, Jigsaw - their web server plus some converter tools and other utilities.
there was also an interesting panel discussion about "successful web design". the crowed came up with a list of recommendations and hints towards a successful web design - whereas successful means, a site on the web where people actually participate in.

the sessions i attended during the developer's day were again dedicated to accessibility. companies like IBM and SoftQuad presented browsers, authoring tools and guidelines related to accessibility. representatives of the university of toronto demonstrated an interactive tool which helps authors to improve accessibility. web sites operated by the government in the U.S. and canada must comply with the accessibility recommendations by law and all these web sites have to be re-designed or improved accordingly.

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what i DID like:

Internet connectivity ready even before the conference started:
last year in brisbane, Internet connectivity was not available before the afternoon of the second day of the conference. now here in toronto, we could plug in our notebooks even one day before the conference. plus they had set up a DHCP server, so we did not have to reconfigure our notebook each time we plug in to a different cable. and finally, the connection was very fast. i really liked that !
this conference strongly supported my motivation to continue my efforts on the web:
i am particularly motivated to:
- look into aspects of e-commerce, especially things like secure transaction (SSL) and electronic payment (such as SET)
- insist at our university on a design of webpages which provide a high degree of accessibility

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what i did NOT like:

conference reduced to two days:
whereas the previous WWW conferences used to last three days (plus a day with tutorials and workshops before the actual conference and a developer's day after the conference), this conference lasted only two days (plus the tutorials/workshop day and the developer's day). i think this is bad especially if 300 papers had been submitted but only 48 fitted in the program. i believe, if people from all over the world come all the way to where the conference takes place, they would not mind to spend one more day and get more information and ideas - at least i wouldn't.

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tutorial 5: electronic payment systems

a good overview of what kind of payment services are available today and what they do. it has become obvious that non of the methods described had taken off so far except of using credit cards, sometimes over a secure connection using SSL. it will probably take at least two more years until we will see any of these systems becoming significant.

more details available here.

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tutorial 11: web security and beyond - protecting your electronic commerce application

again a short but comprehensive overview of this subject by clifford neuman, who also gave the tutorial about electronic payment systems. security issues on e-commerce servers can't be stressed enough. if someone manages to compromise an e-commerce server, this may cause enormous damage to that company or organization.

more details available here.

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first day (wed 12-may-1999)

more details available here.

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second day (thu 13-may-1999)

more details available here.

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developers day (fri 14-may-1999)

more details available here.

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documentation:

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trip reports from previous conferences:


production note:

this trip report was written on a Vadem Clio C-1000 running Windows CE with Pocket Word. It was then transferred to a DELL Latitude notebook and modified as needed. this document is supposed to be HTML V4.0 compliant.

[ This page is Bobby V3.1 approved ] this page conforms with the WAG


WWW8_main.html / 04-jan-2005 (ra) / reto ambühler