The W3C (news, site) has certainly been busy as of late. Many are only focusing on the standards monstrosity HTML 5, which includes more than 100 specifications, but the international standards organization has been doing a lot more.

Open Web of Applications, Architecture, Devices, Services

The standards organization launched a working group for a standard that could change the web into a giant peer-to-peer network. The innocuous-sounding Web Real-Time Communications Working Group has been formed to define client-side APIs to enable real-time communications inside web browsers. The APIs will enable building applications that run inside a browser, with no downloads or plugins, and allow communication between parties using audio, video and supplementary real-time communication -- without a server. According to the charter, the scope of the working group is to define a standard with:

  • API functions to explore device capabilities, e.g. camera, microphone, speakers (currently in scope for the Device APIs & Policy Working Group)
  • API functions to capture media from local devices (camera and microphone) (currently in scope for the Device APIs & Policy Working Group)
  • API functions for encoding and other processing of those media streams
  • API functions for establishing direct peer-to-peer connections, including firewall/NAT traversal
  • API functions for decoding and processing (including echo cancelling, stream synchronization and a number of other functions) of those streams at the incoming end
  • Delivery to the user of those media streams via local screens and audio output devices (partially covered with HTML 5)

The W3C also published the first draft of the Touch Events Specification the same day as forming the Real-Time Communications Working Group. The touch specification defines a common set of low-level events for touch surfaces, which are becoming increasingly popular with growth of tablet devices such as Apple’s iPad.

In addition to those activities, the W3C Web Services Resource Access Working Group has released a call for implementation of seven candidate recommendations for web services:

Public comments are welcome through May 20, 2011.

Calendar API

IInterestingly, the W3C released the first working draft of a standard calendar API prior to RIM’s acquisition of social calendaring application Tungle.me. The Calendar API defines the high-level interfaces to obtain read access to a user's calendaring service that is independent of underlying calendar data source; this is similar to what the freemium platform provides. Given the lackluster interoperability in the calendaring space, this standard should be welcomed -- even demanded -- by enterprises.

As with all standards, success depends on vendor adoption and consumer demand. We will be watching to see which of these makes it beyond a document to actual use in the market.