who's going to www8?

Rohit Khare (rohit@fdr.ICS.uci.edu)
Thu, 01 Apr 1999 19:01:39 -0800

... not me.

(don't be fooled by http://www8.org/panels.html -- yet)

It's getting to be quite the rerun of itself: Al Vezza bringing Tim
(he wasn't on the original slate) and John Patrick on stage again, Bob
Metcalfe, again, and a so-so paper run, again, and a total lack of
community-wide leadership on the research agenda, again.

And an undefined W3C track, again.

Look at http://www8.org/paper-tracks.html

There are few papers that couldn't have been presented at any of the
previous five installments. Even the best I reviewed were not enough
to entice me to spend $2,000 of taxpayers' money to attend. Here's what
caught my eye:

Improving Web Interaction on Small Displays
Matt Jones, Gary Marsden, Norliza Mohd-Nasir, Kevin Boone
(I'd have to read the paper if they've got anything at all innovative
to say -- there are even shipping products doing great stuff here)

XML-GL: a Graphical Language for Querying and Restructuring XML
Stefano Ceri, Sara Comai, Ernesto Damiani, Piero Fraternali, Stefano
Paraboschi, Letizia Tanca
(would have to be a real paradigm-breaker. Very low probability)

Formsheets and the XML Forms Language
Anders Kristensen
(a personal hobbyhorse, so I'd be very intrigued to chat)

Web Caching with Consistent Hashing
David Karger, Tom Leighton, Danny Lewin, Alex Sherman
(old friends -- heart of akamai.com -- but in the end it's a simple trick
backed by very good mathematics: how can you hash an url to a tree of servers,
so you can dynamically vary the number of servers in a cluster)

Automatic RDF Metadata Generation for Resource Discovery
Charlotte Jenkins, Mike Jackson, Peter Burden, Jon Wallis
(it's telling that for all the W3C push, this is the only RDF paper)

Trawling the Web for Emerging Cyber-Communities
Ravi Kumar, Prabhakar Raghavan, Sridhar Rajagopalan, Andrew Tomkins
(on the other hand, they may just have rediscovered webrings)

KPS --- a Web Information Mining Algorithm
Tao Guan, Kam-Fai Wong
(hey, at least *someone's* trying. But also a low-probability of greatness)

XFDL: Creating Electronic Commerce Transaction Records Using XML
Barclay T. Blair, John Boyer
(OK, I'll admit: it's just cause the so approvingly cite Khare/Rifkin98 :-)
(XFDL per se isn't making much headway in the standards process)

UIML: An Appliance-Independent XML User Interface Language
Marc Abrams, Constantinos Phanouriou, Alan Batongbacal,
Stephen Williams, Jono Shuster
(Finally! a real paper -- good pedigree, probabilty of novelty, and
buzzword- compliant. It may even be implemented, from the number of
co-authors. Let's just hope it's not just FORMS reheated like WAP did)

Paper Session 5C: Protocols and Performance
(here is the only two hours I could professionally justify this for--
in addition to the panel on extending HTTP up the wazoo I'm theoretically on)

Policies for Managing TCP Connections Under Persistent HTTP
Edith Cohen, Haim Kaplan, Jeffrey D. Oldham
(wonder if they came up with any better ideas than Mogul's I-D)

The Gecko NFS Web Proxy
Scott Baker, John H. Hartman
(what the hell is this? Does it map webspace onto my drivespace? MIT
student projects did that four years ago! or is it WebNFS warmed over?
Give me odds they even did a comparative analysis to WebDAV...)

Key Differences Between HTTP/1.0 and HTTP/1.1
Balachander Krishnamurthy, Jeffrey C. Mogul, David M. Kristol
(Great, but I don't expect to learn a thing. Fine people, really.)

Beyond that, the developer's day is also pretty tepid. It's not the
smallish, red-hot stuff it used to be before my time, even.
http://www8.org/developers.html has devolved to an unrefereed w3c-cum-
workshop track. {what's up there so far is wacky; but this track alone
I'll grant a pass to because good dev days are necessarily last-minute.}

There's not a shred of information on panels, posters, plenary
details, or "industrial track" (purchased space). The 10th anniversary
of the Web isn't being celebrated in any cogent manner -- no critical
panels, invited talks, true historiography -- just a "trivia wall" for
people to bring their own souvenirs for. I don't even know if that'll
match up to last year's "Museum of Shoes" fercripessake!

The workshops don't have much science to them, either:

W1: Virtual Documents, Hypertext Functionality and the Web
W2: Learning Online
W3: Creating Effective Public Access Science Education Websites: What
Works and Why
W4: 3D Graphics and the Web
W5: Second Workshop on Adaptive Systems and User Modeling on the Web
W6: Web Engineering
W7: Managing Intellectual Content on the Web: Use of the Digital
Object Identifier (DOI)

And that's the heart of the matter: is there really a field of web
studies? I think there's definitely potential -- or, to be precise
there *WAS* potential. It needed to have strong champions [1],
institutional backing [2], and a compelling agenda [3].

The people involved in the early Web didn't provide [1] -- few were of
an academic bent; it was mostly engineers or academics who thought the
Web was "just engineering". The professoriate -- especially the
hypertext community, but also the internet-usenix community -- looked
down on the Web. The twist was in the decision [2]: it moved away from
a quasipublic quasieducational institution (CERN) into the W3C, which
chose not to run a paper journal, not to host research work, not to
participate in the 'scientific' process (in favor of -- very
respectable -- industrial standards work). This led to the formalized
split between IW3C2 and W3C -- W3C is not a formal sponsor of the
conference technical program. So without a permanent journal, program
committee, or professional membership, it has remained a haphazard
event from year to year (different hosts). This in contrast to
SIGGRAPH, for example: its meeting combines cutting-edge research and
massive trade interest, all under the aegis of the ACM. But you need
[3] to define research -- and without [1], there's no manifesto that
lays out the boundaries of 'web studies', and hence no rational
explanation for the WWWn paper selection.

For the record, *of course* I'm speaking from passionate personal
experience from the Web Journal's demise. That was *my* best effort
to organize a coherent field of 'web studies', but I'm not a [1]...

Anyway, Al's spam is attached below (I received four copies so far
just while composing this message!)


Subject: Join Tim Berners-Lee at WWW8

Join Tim Berners-Lee, Director of the Web Consortium (W3C) and inventor
of the Web, at the 8th International World Wide Web Conference in
Toronto, Canada May 11-14, where he will present the opening Keynote
Address. It is hard to believe, but the Web is ten years old this year,
and Tim is sure to reminisce about the Web's development and growth and
share with us his thoughts for its future.

Three other prominent Keynote Speakers will address the delegates: John
Patrick, Vice President, Internet Technology, IBM Corporation, Greg
Papadopoulos, Chief Technology Officer, Sun Microsystems, and Robert
Metcalfe, Vice President of Technology, International Data Group. John
and Greg will give us some insight into where they think the Web is

In addition to providing a critique of the conference, Bob is sure to
make one of his outrageous predications for the Web as he did in Boston.
And who knows what the atonement penalty will be if he is wrong.

These visions for the future will be contrasted by ten years of Web
history gathered by James Gillies from the recollections of conference
delegates and recorded on a special History Wall.

The conference will last a full four days with Tutorials and Workshops
on day one, Keynotes and tracks for Refereed Papers, Poster Sessions,
presentations by the W3C team, Panels and Invited Speakers on days two
and three, and a Developers Day on day four. Please check the Conference
Web site at http://www8.org/ for the full program and other details.
Register now and get the early bird discount.

I hope to see you there.

Albert Vezza
Foretec Seminars, Inc
1895 Preston White Drive
Suite 100
Reston, VA 20191-5434

Internet mail: avezza@foretec.com
Tel: (703) 620-9053
Fax: (703) 620-9071

Cambridge Office
Tel: (617) 621 1536
Fax: (617) 621 7157