The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) announced today it has designated China's Beihang University as a "host" institution, as it hopes to increase opportunities for collaboration with local developers, Internet companies, and research institutes to shape the Web's future.
In a statement issued Monday, the W3C said Beihang University will join the US' Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM), and Japan's Keio University as the organization's four official host centers. Beihang University's School of Computer Science & Engineering department had been a W3C office since April 27, 2006.
It is also the first time in 15 years that the W3C has appointed a new host institution, noted Ian Jacobs, head of communications for W3C.
In a phone interview with ZDNet, Jacobs explained the difference in status between "host" and "office," saying that while Beihang University had previously been a "friend of W3C" in that it hosted events and brought together collaborators, it did not set the direction for the Consortium and house staff member. In other words, the latest announcement means the Chinese institution is "now W3C," he said.
"A host is the heart of our organization, and it is a different level of engagement," the executive said, adding the W3C has set a goal of having seven to 10 employees in China by the end of 2013.
Tapping local innovations
Jacobs also pointed out the Consortium will have a stronger base to engage the Chinese Internet companies, developers, and research institutes to have them contribute to shaping how the Internet will develop in the future.
He said Beihang University has organized many Web developer events since 2006, such as training, meetings, and conferences, and it will continue to be a facilitator for such platforms. Already in place this year is a conference on HTML 5 and mobile development to be held in Beijing in July for approximately 1,000 people, and a "Test the Web Forward" event in Shanghai in the middle of this year, he stated.
Asked if the Chinese developer community has particular strengths the W3C can tap on, the executive said recent participation from members "hint at particular interests." The community has proved adept at creating new browsers and innovating on them, which has led to more distinct browser products in the market than a decade ago, he said.
Mobile and software testing are two other "hot" areas among Chinese developers and are focus areas for Beihang University's events, he added.
Jeff Jaffe, CEO of W3C, also pointed out in the statement that Chinese companies have excelled in instant messaging, online games, smartphones, search, and creating a flourishing browser ecosystem.
"In the past two years, W3C has benefited from greater Chinese participation, and we look forward to that trend accelerating through the efforts of local industry and Beihang University. Global participation in W3C enables our community to identify global needs for the Web and drive solutions," Jaffe stated.
In terms of attracting more Chinese companies to become W3C members, Jacobs said there are no concrete goals set by the Consortium for the year.
He did note, though, that participation among local companies is "modest but growing." Companies such as Huawei Technologies, Baidu, Tencent, and China Unicom have employees contributing to W3C's various community groups, and, with a local host institution in place, the contributions should rise accordingly, he added.