W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-webpayments@w3.org > March 2013

Re: Heads up - W3C Headlights exercise on web payments

From: Manu Sporny <msporny@digitalbazaar.com>
Date: Sat, 02 Mar 2013 10:40:14 -0500
Message-ID: <51321D5E.5050306@digitalbazaar.com>
To: public-webpayments@w3.org
On 02/07/2013 11:59 AM, Nathan wrote:
> Perhaps it would be good to have an autonomous, focussed group 
> looking specifically at this for a 6 months then reporting back,
> they may see / cover things the main web payments cg haven't thought
> of, or they may come back with exactly what you think anyway - either
> way it could be very positive to have the second focuss :)

I don't doubt that having an autonomous, focused group would be a good
thing assuming that:

* The group is composed of representatives that are interested in
  achieving many of the things we've discussed in this group.
* The group is technically capable and has real operational experience
  in building these sorts of systems.
* The group isn't skewed heavily in one direction or another
  (academic vs. corporate).
* The goals of the group don't overlap greatly with what this group is
  attempting to do. A fork would be damaging at this point.

My concern with this sort of W3C Headlights endeavor is that one or two
large commercial operations that have not traditionally valued
interoperability become involved in the project and re-direct W3C
resources in creating a centralized solution where there are 2-3 winners
and the rest get locked out of the market.

I think it would be a great loss to see a group such as this crank out
solutions based not on truly decentralized solutions, but solutions that
give larger companies certain advantages over smaller ones. Creating
these sorts of advantages in the marketplace is what many financial
institutions spend a great deal of time and money doing. That amount of
money eclipses all the money flowing into W3C right now by an fantastic

As an example of what we'd not like to see happen, we can look to the
current Certificate Authority system[1], or any of the centralized
payment networks. Even ACH, Visa, and Mastercard are examples of bad
technical solutions to a well known problem. Having a headlights project
convey to W3C that minor tweaks to those types of systems should be
pursued over ones that we've been discussing here would be a pretty
terrible outcome.

I do realize that the likelihood of this happening is fairly remote, but
I hope that folks in this group understand that there is a great deal of
money at stake here and that we shouldn't expect the sorts of forces on
this group to be of the traditional technical variety (Canvas, CSS,
RDFa, XML, etc.). Just look at the recent DRM in HTML5 effort to
understand the types of endeavors that can be successfully pushed
through W3C when there is enough money involved[2].

This is why I'm so concerned about the composition of that Headlights
group and making sure there are people representing our interests in
that group.

-- manu

[2] http://www.w3.org/2013/02/28-privacy-minutes.html#item01

Manu Sporny (skype: msporny, twitter: manusporny, G+: +Manu Sporny)
Founder/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
blog: Aaron Swartz, PaySwarm, and Academic Journals
Received on Saturday, 2 March 2013 15:40:45 UTC

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