[foaf-protocols] WebID talk at W3C

Dan Brickley danbri at danbri.org
Wed Aug 25 15:22:14 CEST 2010

On Wed, Aug 25, 2010 at 2:58 PM, Henry Story <henry.story at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 25 Aug 2010, at 13:51, Manu Sporny wrote:
>> W3C is very unlikely to pick up the WebID work at this point and the
>> main reason for that is your behavior both on and off list over the past
>> week.
> Utter nonsense. WebID is way too important for the W3C, than that some mischief making by a few people is going to dampen the need for it. Please contact me by phone and lets move on to do this presentation for tomorrow.

So, identity using certs, and browser support for identity, ...
certainly are two important themes that W3C and others would ignore at
their peril. But I would advise against assuming the current WebID
design is something W3C is likely to try to take REC-track as-is.
Doing so without working out a careful liaison with the OpenID and
OAuth community (both OpenID vNext and OpenID Connect strands of work)
would be hugely disruptive, and could do more damage than good.

I think there in fact is some role for W3C to do something useful on
these themes, and I hope the WebArch-respecting pragmatism of the
foaf+ssl/WebID design will get increasing attention.

BTW I would also try to distinguish more clearly in these discussions
between W3C at large, and "The W3C Team" (aka W3C Staff). WebID
already has had a lot of discussion in the wider (semweb/ socialweb)
groups at W3C, of which we are all members and peers. The W3C staff,
on the other hand, tend to be massively overworked and don't often
have the time to track such developments as well as they'd like. This
telecon seems to be specifically about bringing the W3C *staff* a bit
more up to date with some recent themes around online identity. As a
former W3C staffer, I'd like to emphasise that this exercise should
not be mistaken for some kind of 'high court hearing' in W3C's inner
circle. It's just a short in-house topical review to help the W3C
staff stay well informed about topics they haven't often had a chance
to investigate in depth. This is a very good thing, as it stops the
team becoming glorified clerks; this keeps them happier, and helps
them stay more engaged with the detail of rapidly evolving,
inter-connected technologies. It is not, however, a short cut to
building support in the wider world.

Decision making at W3C is something of a distributed, decentralised
process. Proposals for new work can come through various routes, they
are shepherded, refined and sometimes instigated by the W3C
staff/team, but eventually the proposal of new work items needs to be
formally made to the wider non-team W3C community.

I'm sad to see that the opportunity to give this brief presentation
has led to people getting upset with one another, and I think Henry's
suggestion to move such disputes to a (hopefully friendly) phone chat
is a good one. Probably the most concrete out come from the
presentation will not be its direct effect on W3C, but that it is
encouraging members of this community to work out with a bit more
urgency just what WebID's key features, benefits and challenges are.
There is certainly more to do on that front, and I gently suggest that
using language like "Utter nonsense" is unlikely to encourage the kind
of friendly collaboration needed to get the job done.



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