The annual World Wide Web Conference in Edinburgh from 23 to 26 May is set to be one of the most far-reaching IT events in the UK next year.
Called WWW2006, the conference, which takes place in a different country each year, comes to the UK at a key time in the development of the web and aims to showcase the new wave of capability that will transform online activity over the next 10 years.
The conference is organised for the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in the UK by the School of Electronics & Computer Science at Southampton University in conjunction with the British Computer Society. Up to 2,000 delegates from around the world are expected and it will provide a forum where IT directors, business decision makers, web specialists and techies can meet the people making the decisions about the future of the web.
Keynote speakers at the event include Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Consortium, Jamie Shea, director of policy planning at Nato, Michael Rawlins, chairman of the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, Mike Harris, executive vice-chairman and founder of online bank Egg, and senior figures from Reuters, Reed Elsevier, Nortel, Motorola, Microsoft and RM.
The conference will be broken down into four one-day themed sessions. The first day will focus on the web's impact on business, looking especially at the impact of web-based innovation on advertising, publishing and the media, as well as e-commerce and on traditional business.
The second day will focus on the next wave of web technologies, such as the Semantic Web and the mobile/pervasive web, and their impact on applications. Delegates will also hear about the impact of the web on networks through, for example, voice over IP. Its impact on devices and interfaces, including browsing technologies, will also be addressed.
The final two days will focus on what steps are being taken to ensure that the web is secure, and also on the impact of the web on education, science and healthcare, both for healthcare professionals and patients.
Attendees can expect to hear first-hand what is going on behind the scenes to provide a richer user experience from the web. One such area is the development of standards that support web interaction through voice technology.
Delegates will be brought up to date with the W3C's work to enable the "ubiquitous web" to become reality through a series of standards and recommendations designed to make the web more easily accessible to handhelds and other portable devices. In this area the W3C is building a database of device descriptions and developing best practices for the creation of mobile-friendly websites.
On security, the W3C is exploring ways to give users and service providers more confidence in their transactions and provide easier identity management.
The conference is also likely to hear about advances in managing the huge amount of online data using the Semantic Web. This provides a common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise and community boundaries.
The wider context of the web will also feature at the conference. For example, Berners-Lee is personally committed to the Web Accessibility Initiative, which sets out guidelines to help people with physical disabilities access the web.
The work of the World Wide Web
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the global organisation founded and run by inventor of the web Tim Berners-Lee. It aims to ensure that the web is available and accessible to everyone, regardless of their hardware, software, network infrastructure, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability.
Members of the W3C include most major IT suppliers and many large corporate user organisations, whose technical experts work together to decide the future direction of the web.
"Our members work together to design and standardise web technologies that build on its universality, giving the power to communicate, exchange information and write effective, dynamic applications for anyone, anywhere, anytime, using any device," said Berners-Lee.
Key areas of work include web accessibility, internationalisation and device independence.
The W3C aims to make the web as simple and convenient to use on a range of mobile devices as it is from a desktop PC. It is working to ensure that all types of mobile phones, personal digital assistants, interactive television systems, voice response systems, internet kiosks and even domestic appliances can access the web.
Another area the W3C is working is on developing the web's vast database potential to help solve complex problems.
Among the long-term goals of the W3C is to promote technologies that enable a more collaborative environment, a web where accountability, security, confidence, and confidentiality are all possible, and where people participate according to their individual privacy requirements and preferences.