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Re: boundaries for the Web

From: Simon St.Laurent <simonstl@simonstl.com>
Date: 21 Mar 2002 19:36:27 -0500
To: www-tag@w3.org
Message-Id: <1016757388.890.237.camel@localhost.localdomain>
On Thu, 2002-03-21 at 18:13, Dan Connolly wrote:
> I wonder what makes you say that... from what I can tell, this sort
> of description of the Web has been used pretty consistently,
> since before W3C was even formed:

I think the W3C's own continuous growth into new areas is a good example
of the lack of boundaries in its understanding of the Web.  

> > well beyond the common understanding of the
> > Web among developers.
> 
> Could you elaborate on that? What do developers think about the
> Web that conflicts with the stuff in section 1?

I'd suggest that most developers still think of the Web as a mechanism
for exchanging information with a human being at the client end.

> If they think the Web is just HTTP and HTML, then I think
> that's an unfortunately limited view of the Web, and I hope
> to persuade them to broaden their view a bit.

I don't know that the W3C has ever attempted to reach (and certainly not
include) most developers, so persuasion might be a good start.

> >  The definition above applies to the Internet as
> > well as the Web and to any number of other networked systems.  
> 
> The bit you excerpted does, but you clipped perhaps
> the most relevant part:
> 
>   Web Architecture is the set of rules that all agents in
>   the system follow that result in the large-scale effect
>   of a shared information space.

Unfortunately that doesn't provide any constraints whatsoever on the
definition of "Web".  Saying that the "Web" is whatever conforms to "Web
architecture" is more or less an invitation to "Web architects" to do
what they like.

I suspect it's clear that I'm unhappy with a situation where "Web" means
"whatever the W3C feels like doing".

> > I would like to request that the TAG establish in this document a
> > definition of "the Web" that includes clear boundaries for the Web -
> > what is the Web, and what is not the Web.
> 
> Any suggestions?
> 
> The main things that I can think of that are not Web Architecture
> are technologies that are local to one system; i.e. cut-and-paste
> desktop standards, CGI and other inside-the-server stuff. Is that
> the sort of boundary you had in mind?

Heck, I see CGI as far more Web-oriented than Web Services or the
Semantic Web.  I think we'd be better off looking at questions about
what exactly the Web does to figure out what the Web is.
 
> Another fairly clear boundary is that if URIs don't figure
> in somehow, it's pretty disconnected from Web Archtecture. e.g.
> TCP, french minitel, AOL, etc.

That's hardly a boundary - it lets anything using URIs in, which can be
pretty nearly _anything_.

So what is the Web?

Conservatively, I'd suggest that:
The Web is a hypertext-based system built around the Hypertext Transfer
Protocol which uses a combination of marked-up information and software
to convey information to people.

I'm quite aware that definition is constraining, but I'd be happy to
hear others which provide constraints.

-- 
Simon St.Laurent
Ring around the content, a pocket full of brackets
Errors, errors, all fall down!
http://simonstl.com
Received on Thursday, 21 March 2002 18:31:27 GMT

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