RE: who's going to www8?

Jim Whitehead (
Fri, 2 Apr 1999 10:54:58 -0800

> And that's the heart of the matter: is there really a field of web
> studies?

Well, certainly one can *study* the Web. The conference papers show, if
nothing else, that intelligent people are still finding the Web to be a
fascinating cluster of artifacts, standards, information, and services to

I wonder what *kind* of study is possible on the Web.

On answer is the Web as an engineering discipline. In this type of study,
people work within the establish paradigm of the Web to incrementally
improve it in various ways. I can imagine paper sessions describing
techniques for eeking out percentage points of efficiency in HTML
parser/rendering engines. Or tweaks to HTTP stacks to gain incremental
efficiencies. This work would certainly be valuable to society, increasing
the performance of widely used tools. But, it wouldn't be computer
*science*, and today science looks down at engineering (a mistake I feel).

There is also much science going on in the Web. In scientific study of the
Web, new abstractions are developed and explored for constructing
information or services, or interactions between people and the Web are
explored. New Web services are also investigated, a fine line since the new
services need to extend the Web without leaving the Web paradigm completely
(else they wouldn't be doing work on the Web, it would be work in CSCW, or
Hypertext, or HCI, etc.) Curiously, a lot of the scientific work on the Web
is taking place in standards committees, in many respects a poor place for
scientific exploration since the level of acceptable risk in a standard is
very low. Still, arguably standards like RDF, XML, Xlink, XSL, CSS, DAV and
others are scientific research into new ways of structuring information
(XML), separation of information and display (CSS, XSL), and new Web
services (DAV, Xlink). But, unfortunately, the chief principals involved in
these standards rarely try to distill lessons learned in the form of a
concise journal or conference paper.

- Jim (who is also not going)