World Wide Web Consortium, the organization behind efforts like web standards and guidelines to ensure a long-term growth for the Web just announced to set up Beihang University as a new center for W3C technical staff in China in an aim to ramp up collaboration among Chinese companies, developers, research institutes and W3C’s communities from other 40 countries through a more substantial China presence.
Chinese online activities contributed a lot to what makes the world’s second largest economy. For example, the Web Index 2012 indicates that “online shopping represents the largest growth segment of Internet use in China” while an April 2012 report found that “[Around 2015] China will likely become the largest online retail market in the world, with close to 10 percent of retail sales occurring online”. Web is playing a more important role in the Middle Kingdom’s economic life.
Beihang, the Beijing-based technical university, which also goes by Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics, has been helping promote and shape web standards in China since six years ago via a partnership with W3C. Ian Jacobs, head of communication of W3C told us that “Beihang has been a big supporter of W3C’s, and because of their successes (organizing events, working with companies in China to join W3C) and because of the activity in the internet space in China, we decided it was a good time to set up a more substantial presence”. Also, there has been an increase in Chinese participation in standards bodies.
The mindset, according to Ian, of W3C’s China presence, is more collaboration. W3C’s mission is to create a global web and for that they need people from around the world. China’s growing importance in both world economy and technology world calls for a more important role for the country in W3C’s collective efforts.
And Beihang and W3C’s China office are supposed to be making their own contribution to those collective efforts. Beihang has organized many developer gatherings and test sessions over the past six years to engage developers and promote web standards, now alongside the dedicated W3C China office, we’re expected to more similar events going forward. In addition to evangelist-wise events, W3C China house’s technical staff and management team would also help to coordinate standards and to shape the direction of the consortium, Ian said.
Eliminating IE 6
Specifically, I talked with Ian about the oversized IE 6 adoption in China. For people who don’t have the background, a NetApplication stats out by last July indicated that China is the single largest market for IE 6 with a 21.3% adoption rate. The outdated browser incurred countless troubles for web developers and Chinese companies. In a joint effort among Microsoft, Chinese browser vendors like Maxthon, 360 and Sogou, and W3C, many new-released browsers were featuring two render engines – one is webkit while the other one is IE 8 or 9 – to get rid of the IE6 engine came with the stock browser of OS.
Someone from Maxthon once commented on the IE 6 situation saying that “there’s a vicious cycle around IE6 in China: users keep using it because sites are designed for IE6, and people build sites for IE6 because users stay with it. We are trying to break the cycle by helping developers build more standards-compliant Web sites”.