Next week, an assortment of internet luminaries will get together to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the World Wide Web Consortium, those wacky folks who brought you little things like HTML standards, including the infamous
tag. (They’ve even set up an online greeting card for themselves.)
Among the speakers will be Tim Berners-Lee, Bob Metcalfe, and an assortment of other big brains and deep thinkers who either shaped the Web as we now know it, or hope to mold it some more in the future.
Of course, any individual group trying to guide the Web these days is a bit like tying a string to a shark’s tail and saying, “I’m currently influencing this shark.” Maybe the shark notices. Maybe it doesn’t. But odds are that all the other sharks in the water see you as little more than bait.
In the early days, though, when nobody but scientists and computer geeks cared about the Web, the W3C played a vital role, making sure that the technology’s early promise didn’t get bogged down in endless fights about exactly how to format a stylesheet or how imagemaps should work. They nurtured the Web into what it is today, though I doubt many of them had oceans of porn, acres of knockoff Rolex offers, and bushels of cheap Viagra in mind back in 1994.
But trying to turn back the clock just leads to frustration. Big Money and Big Government are in the Web game these days, and they aren’t likely to let a historical footnote like the W3C stand in the way of their goals.
Regardless, I plan on dropping by the festivities for a while. Smart people not driven by dollar signs. Who’d ever think it?