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TAG and WWW Architecture

From: Aaron Swartz <aswartz@swartzfam.com>
Date: Sun, 13 May 2001 01:34:55 -0500
To: <timbl@w3.org>, <process-issues@w3.org>, "www talk w3.org" <www-talk@w3.org>
CC: "Simon St.Laurent" <simonstl@simonstl.com>, "Roy T. Fielding" <fielding@ebuilt.com>, FoRK <fork@kragen.dnaco.net>
Message-ID: <B723953E.B563%aswartz@swartzfam.com>
[ This letter is based upon the information given to me as a member of the
public at the recent W3C Technical Plenary. Notes from that are at:
http://logicerror.com/w3c-meeting-2001-2-28 ]

The W3C is working on a proposal[1] for what they call a Technical
Architecture Group (TAG). The TAG will be like a working-group but remain
active throughout the life time of the W3C. Members will be voted on, and
the group will write recommendations and notes. In essence, the group will
decide and define Web architecture in private. I think this is an awful
decision for the future of the Web.

In his dissertation[2], Roy Fielding thanks Tim Berners-Lee, not for
inventing the Web, but for making it "an open, collaborative project". He
describes how Web architecture was decided and defined, for the most part,
on this list (www-talk) and in public IETF working groups.

TAG threatens to change all that by taking Web architecture behind closed
doors (W3C Members only) and have the W3C vote on the participants. In
effect, the Web itself would be proprietary, defined not by any one company,
but by their conglomeration at the W3C. It would mean the end of the open,
collaborative Web and instead allow things to be decided by the result of a
vote.

Many people have contributed to the Web and can contribute. Not all of them
are W3C members, fewer are likely to be voted on to the TAG and even fewer
will serve their term when they are truly needed. By not allowing these
people (the vast majority of Web users!) to contribute to discussions about
Web architecture, the W3C is making a serious mistake.

It saddens me enough that many important Working Groups conduct themselves
in private (thankfully many important ones remain public), however, taking
the entire Web architecture into this veil of privacy is a step too far.

I insist that TAG not be created without adequate review by the Web
community at large, and the Web community must be allowed to take part in
TAG's process. I understand the desire for a small working group that can
get things done, but that must be balanced with the need of the Web
community to take part in major architectural decisions. I call upon other
users of the Web and members of the Web community to join me.

This issue is so serious that I plead for the W3C not to enact the TAG in
its present form. To do so may be a blow from which the Web might never
fully recover.

[1] http://www.w3.org/2001/02/12-tag
[2] http://www.ics.uci.edu/~fielding/pubs/fielding_diss.pdf
-- 
[ Aaron Swartz | me@aaronsw.com | http://www.aaronsw.com ]
Received on Sunday, 13 May 2001 02:35:05 GMT

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