The W3C last week had a major announcement last week regarding web annotations. On December 1st, an informal annotation commission was formed with several publishers such as Wiley and MIT Press, in order to improve scholarly research and, ultimately, social collaboration across the Internet. On the importance of annotations:
Today, comments on the Web are disjointed and often disruptive; a unified mechanism for creating, publishing, displaying, and sharing annotations and other comments in a decentralized way can aid in distributed curation, improving the quality of comments that a reader sees for Web content, and improving the reading experience. In parallel, Web users want to organize and remember useful sites on the Web, and want to synchronize their favorite sites across multiple devices, or to share their thoughts about a site with friends or colleagues; Web annotations enable all this by allowing users to make highlights or detailed notes about a site, to add tags for categorization and search, and to share these links and notes across multiple conforming social media services. This is ideal for casual users, or for focused reading circles or classrooms.
The W3C wants to create a full, shared ecosystem around annotations, and believe that academia is the best place to start, as it's a field where annotating, organizing, and collaborating on documents is incredibly important. You can find the full text at the W3C blog here.
There were also two initiatives to help make the Web more accessible to those with disabilities. The first was introducing the publication of the Media Accessibility User Requirements (MAUR) document for media consumption, such as video and audio. The document has actually been in development since 2009, and was already responsible for ensuring HTML5 allowed captioning in video content. According to the W3C:
The MAUR will be useful for user agent developers and media content developers alike as they exploit the power of HTML 5. It will aid broadcasters as they publish their content on their web sites, and it will aid governmental entities seeking to meet their legislated mandates to make governmental web content accessible.
The second was the publication of the WAI-ARIA Graphics Module, which will allow developers and publishers to add a description of graphical documents and images for the disabled to interact with. This allows content creators to warn browsers and assistive technologies that an image may contain information not included in plain text content, describe a section of an image as a meaningful object, and identify and alert others to symbols within images. This places more and more importance on the text associated with an image and how it's used to help disabled Web users. A list of the full capabilities and roadmap of the module can be found here.
I hope you enjoyed this roundup of W3C news for the week of November 29th. What would make these updates more useful? Would you like to see more? Let us know in the comments!