This is a mid-term report on the W3C-GFTW Curated Grant entitled “Open and Standard Web Monetization”.
W3C was excited to be invited to participate in the Grant for the Web Program (Gftw). Gftw shared with us their imperative that future Web Monetization solutions should build on an infrastructure based on open standards. They felt any solutions are more likely to succeed with a focus on “design for standardization” from initiation.
What a breath of fresh air! Much of web development starts out as proprietary and it can be difficult and costly to convert initial proposals into standards. Here was an opportunity to guide projects on values-based standards-first thinking from the outset. We hope that this is a model for future incubations. If only we lived in a world where everyone started with this enlightened approach!
Practically, what is needed is for implementers to adopt core web design principles from the beginning. So, W3C was asked to advise how to build the Grant for the Web program so that grantees would develop their work in a way that maximizes the likelihood of adoption as a standard. These include general design principles (e.g. device independence), as well as focusing on the vital societal needs that are addressed at standardization (security, privacy, internationalization, and accessibility). Collectively we refer to all of these design principles as web design principles.
This curated GftW grant to W3C focuses on six opportunities:
- Improving the grant selection process by bringing in web design principles earlier
- Providing tools and educational instruments
- Vetting actual GftW proposals
- Feedback about the developer experience
- Community engagement
- Shared commitment to diversity and inclusion
In the first several months of the program we focused on the first two opportunities. In this post we will also comment on our shared commitment to diversity and inclusion.
In an ideal world, all developers would always have the resources and expertise to build their solutions using web design principles from the start. But often developers’ initial focus is on basic functionality and this might cause them to pay less attention than needed to these design principles. Failure to address these principles at an early stage of development is likely to introduce unwelcome difficulties and unexpected additional costs further down the line, and may even prevent their eventual implementation. Moreover, designing correctly for topics such as privacy, security, internationalization, and accessibility might require special expertise.
Hence we concluded that the grant application process itself must call attention to web design principles. This explains our early attention to the grant process.
Not every grant application can afford to provide equal attention to web design principles, nor would the scale of the impact of not following them be the same across grantees. We thus want to focus on grant applications that target open standardization or are expected to have an ecosystem-wide impact. Ensuring these proposals receive thorough guidance and expert reviews will make it more likely that the Web Monetization ecosystem as a whole develops harmoniously with the rest of the Web Platform.
Smaller scale projects still benefit from related education materials and prompts to reflect on these important considerations but, given their less systemic impact, we intend to take a less direct involvement in their review.
In January 2021, Grant for the Web opened up a small and focused Call for Proposals called Second chance. We provided a basic, single question to gauge how much awareness applicants had of web design principles. While it yielded a rough indication of that awareness, most of these responses did not provide sufficient information to accurately judge the applicants’ expertise or approach.
For future “Calls”, we are working with the Grant for the Web team to improve the grant application form so that it has separate questions for each focus area. This should help applicants give a clearer indication of awareness and approaches being proposed. For projects that impact the ecosystem, we will provide detailed feedback on gaps in awareness or limitations in the proposed approaches, and in some cases, flag proposals as potentially harmful given their expected impact on one of these societal dimensions.
A major overall objective for this project is to communicate web design principles to the Web Monetization community. The values-based developer, who wants to design in a fashion that respects web design principles requires two things. First, they require a perspective on the full range of user requirements. We addressed that with a series of blogs cross-posted on both the Grant for the Web site and our own site which provide a framework to think about societal issues such as accessibility, privacy, and internationalization.
Second, developers need basic tools, educational materials, and pointers to allow them to design in a way that leads to success.
For the first piece, we started with an introductory blog which provided a broad overview of our approach to design. We followed with a humorous one-act-play which illustrates the challenges of something as simple as a name box when it is intended for a global audience. We also followed with a tutorial on how data minimization is an important design approach if we are to take user privacy seriously. And we described how designing for device independence not only allows for performance optimization and graceful degradation, but is actually required to ensure access by people who may only have limited device capabilities.
Providing this perspective about the needs is not sufficient. One also needs educational material to teach. We have begun providing that as well.
For accessibility we provided an introduction to using the Framework for Accessible Specification of Technologies (FAST) self-assessment checklist. Following that framework enhances accessibility for those with disabilities. For internationalization we provided checklists and explainers to provide basic training. (The checklists point to more detailed information.) We also provided device independence explainers .
As well as posting blogs on both the Grant for the Web and W3C sites, we also promoted these on twitter to our followers.
We still have more to do. So far we have identified and modified existing tools. But there are areas where we have barely scratched the surface, or where more customization is required. Look for that in the future.
Both W3C and Gftw are deeply committed to improving diversity and inclusion in the technology development space.
W3C believes in a Web for All - everyone on the planet should be able to access the web and take advantage of it. To make that vision true, we need to get more diverse people to the standardization table looking at issues to design the Web with a community that reflects the world's diversity.
Over time, W3C and Gftw look to a joint articulation of goals and programs to improve diversity. One aspect is to identify key areas of geographic growth.
Building on the energy coming from the Web Monetization ecosystem, our grant includes a mechanism to fund W3C standardization participation of other GftW grantees, targeting specifically small organizations from World Bank low-income countries, lower-middle income countries, and upper-middle income countries. Recently, we announced that Gftw grantee Snake Nation, based in South Africa, is the first winner of this scholarship.
To create a standards-based Web monetization infrastructure requires dedication to web design principles from the broader Web monetization community. Providing guidance to developers is the first step and is the heart of this project. But true success occurs via adoption of this guidance. We will all benefit if all of the grantees invest the effort to ensure that our solutions and applications protect privacy, are accessible to all, and meet needs of internationalization. Such a focus might cost some investment in time up front, but will result in both time savings and more robust solutions in the long term.
At a more narrow level, we would love to get feedback both on the instructional materials as well as the suggestions we have made for the Calls for Participation.
This project has had mutual and cooperative benefits for W3C and the Grant for the Web program.
W3C’s experience with important societal web design principles has helped focus the Grant for the Web program: grantees are more likely to scale up to building a generic infrastructure that can be used by many, while addressing societal needs.
W3C’s team has benefited from early exposure to an innovative new approach to web monetization. It has also helped W3C refine some of their guidelines and educational materials which can be reused across the W3C ecosystem.
Last month, Grant for the Web announced their latest Call for Proposals . This will test the work done to date on the grant proposal process and on educational materials. It will also give insight as to what types of work might be needed in the future as we seek to further strengthen attention to web design principles and increase the focus on broad societal needs.
Longer term more effort is required to build a sustainable standards-based web monetization ecosystem. Partly that is work that our project team must do, to further develop, refine, and
customize our guidance. Beyond that, there is substantial skills building that is required of developers and we intend to be available to consult on individual circumstances.