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The Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) has announced the launching of an international industry-consortium effort to develop the World-Wide Web into a global information infrastructure capable of supporting commercial as well as research activities.
Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the W3 and a a staff member at LCS, heads the new W3 Consortium as its director.
The World-Wide Web has brought a rich global information base to the fingertips of millions of Internet users, the announcement said. The web has no "center." Its large collection of hypertext, graphics, sound, video, real-time and other information sources reside on thousands of computers connected to the Internet. Users of what is widely considered to be the fastest-growing network phenomenon of all time-art museums, grammar schools, Fortune 500 corporations, government and even pizza parlors-are creating and using information on subjects ranging from art to education, marketing, governance and commerce.
"Now, MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science will combine its deep research interests in information infrastructures for tomorrow, with the kind of expertise which led the Laboratory's X Windows system to become the basic element across a thousand different products in the workstation industry," said Professor Michael L. Dertouzos, LCS director. The X Consortium, after six years in MIT/LCS, was spun off as an independent nonprofit entity in January 1994.
Mr. Berners-Lee said, "The decision to form the consortium came at the urging of many firms investing increasing resources into the Web, whether in creation of software products, selling information, or for sharing information within their own companies, with business partners and the public at large." Mr. Berners-Lee retains an affiliation with the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN), where the World Wide Web was invented and where a growing European development team works in close collaboration with MIT.
The LCS announcement said MIT has been encouraged to establish this consortium by computer companies, software firms, network- and content-providers who seek a vendor-neutral convenor in the development of the W3 standard.
The consortium will operate with small task forces of experts in each technical area of concentration of the W3 standard. W3's simplicity and power make it attractive to a growing number of uses, including group collaboration tools, electronic publishing, remote learning, electronic commerce, banking and the use of intelligent network agents. Underlying these applications is a developing infrastructure of access, security, payment, automatability, and knowledge and data representation and conversion.
"The essential work of the Web consortium team is to draw these threads together into a consistent architecture ensuring that the rapid pace of progress can be maintained without creeping incompatibilities," Mr. Berners-Lee said. The consortium will be releasing, first to members and then to the public, reference software components which will allow everyone access to a rich global information network.
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 8).