Sunday, 12 January 2014

AUDIO: An audience with the W3C TAG Team

I studied Internet Computing at university, but it's been a long time since I stared at a screen of C++ or faced the headache of iterative code, so I rarely mix in developer circles these days. But when a friend at work invited me to a Meet the W3C TAG event at Google's London Campus (7th Jan 2014), that was enough to whet my nerdy appetite, let alone the speaker lineup, which featured none other than history game changer, inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

The internet has grown to be so vast, that is has become an impossible entity to police. Anyone who makes websites, or does any form of programming would have heard of the W3C, or the World Wide Web Consortium. Led by Berners-Lee, the W3C are a global group of industry experts who essentially meet up and produce a set of web standards, a code of conduct if you like, for anyone producing content for the web, making suggestions and advising on a best practice about how the internet should be used to its full and best potential, for all concerned. The W3C TAG (Technical Architecture Group) are the experts who specialise in web architecture matters like Application Programming Interface (API) design.

I spent the evening listening to the exceptionally passionate speakers on the panel, notably Berners-Lee, Google Software Engineer Alex Russell and Mozilla's Anne van Kesteren (panel moderator) discuss such topics as the ethics of Digital rights management (DRM) and the role of Netflix in the market, the TAGs principles when it comes to setting web standards, plus the coolness and exciting flexibility, and subsequent involvement of the W3C TAG regarding Web Components. For more in-depth accounts of the discussions, I found a couple of great posts from Adactio ( and Bruce Lawson that elaborate on the panel coverage.

Members of the W3C TAG. L-R: Anne van Kesteren (Mozilla), Tim Berners-Lee (W3C), Alex Russell (Google),
Yehuda Katz (JQuery Foundation) and Dan Appelquist (Telefonica)

To a certain extent, working with the web requires a huge dose of philanthropy. The human condition to innovate and improve needs to come from a genuine need to better what we have already, which is where groups like the W3C come in. At the very start of creation, those with the power of creation need to access all elements of their product, from the ways it will be used to who will and won't benefit from its existence, which was very prevalent in the panel's surface discussions.

Admittedly the finer details of the discussions went somewhat beyond my knowledge base, but it was a great evening building on my periphery learnings and hearing the opinions and angles from some incredible industry brains, but most importantly, I totally got to be in the same room as the man who made the internet; TOTAL nerd-out.

I also recorded the panel. It's a bit muffled in places but make out what you can and hope it's of use to you:

Quick breakdown of the Meet The W3C TAG recording above:  
0 - 4m : Introductions
4m 30s : Bruce Lawson (Opera) asks what the TAG core principles are (Alex Russell answers) 
Alex Russell: "The tactical goal is to try to inform the standards process with the experience of being a developer. Think about the people who makes browsers. You don't get hire to make a browser because you're the world's best web developer; if you're that, you get hired to make websites. You get paid to make browsers if you're gnarly at C++." 
Talks JavaScript, JS promises and Bit Code. 
12m 10s : Alex Russell: "We are doing archaeology; there is something down there." See the TAG charter. 16m 50s Alex Russell discusses CSP (Content Security Policy).

18m 25s Yehuda Katz discusses historical API capabilities.

23m 30s : Audience member asks about Encrypted Media Extensions and the TAG agrees with Ian Hixson's views on the matter. (EME enables HTML/DRM). Anne van Kesteren summarises Hixon's paper; that EME is "unethical" anothe panel member chips in "and it doesn't work".

26m 28s :  Tim Berners-Lee beckons the room: "Put your hand up if you think DRM is bad or unethical or evil. (A flurry of people stand up). Now sit down if you've ever used Netflix or iTunes. (Majority sit down, one person left standing). (To the person standing) So you don't use Netflix, listen to music on iTunes or us a DVD player, Blu-rays? (Person responds yes to DVD player) Berners-Lee "So you do use DRM". Berners-Lee uses Concert Window gig feed functionality as an example of good DRM, and how you can crack a DRM feed, but that people don't.

31m : Tim Berners-Lee: "We are stuck between a rock and a hard place if we say DRM is evil and horrible so lets not implement it." Then discusses what the W3C have to think about, the alternatives for the industry. It's not simple.

32m 10s : Russian TAG member Sergey Konstantinov comments how being from Russia he hates DRM due to it's restrictive nature of DVD region matching.

33m : Audience member: "It's easy to forget the purpose of copyright of DRM..."

Further links:

Posted by: Geek Girl Kerensa Creswell-Bryant
Geek Girl, Updated at: 16:59