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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 9, 2002

Hawai'i links to Web conference

By John Duchemin
Advertiser Staff Writer

Opening ceremonies had begun, but Chris Tolles didn't seem fazed.

Tim Berners-Lee, "the Internet's Inventor," addressed the Web developers at the WWW2002 conference being held at the Sheraton Waikiki.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

As Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono ascended the stage yesterday morning to welcome the 11th International World Wide Web Conference to the Sheraton Waikiki, Tolles sat on the drinks table in back of the ballroom, flipped open a laptop, and read a colleague's e-mails on technical programming issues.

Dozens of other attendees also ignored the formalities, instead opting to get online, refine papers or fix up Power Point presentations. Despite the jeans, sandals and ubiquitous tucked-in T-shirts, these people meant business.

The international conference known as WWW2002 is exactly the type of event that Hawai'i tourism and economic development officials want to attract. More than 900 Web programmers, researchers and entrepreneurs from several dozen nations are here in Waikiki this week not for fun and sun, but to help create, define and refine the fundamental standards behind the Internet.

This annual World Wide Web conference has become one of the most important Internet-related meetings around. Computer industry conventions are more glitzy, often drawing thousands of attendees as companies unveil their latest products — but nonprofit, idea-sharing conferences like WWW2002 help developers figure out how to make everything click.

"This is a like-minded body of souls here — we all listen to each other's ideas and that helps us set standards," said conference attendee Kathi Martin, a professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia who teaches computer-aided technology.

Martin, who is trying to create an online museum, came to the conference to help develop access standards for online archives.

The conference was preceded by a two-day meeting of the World Wide Web Consortium, the board that sets standards for essential Web building blocks like HTML and XML. The public part of the conference runs through Saturday, and serves as a forum for some of the world's top programmers to discuss deep technical issues.

Conference planners, including the Honolulu-based Pacific Telecommunications Council, hope the meeting will spawn more of its kind.

While a few technical conferences have been held in Hawai'i in recent years, including last year's Asia-focused Biotechnology Industry Organization convention, the state for years has been attempting to draw more hard-core business meetings as a way to stimulate economic diversification.

"Having these kinds of technical people here from their companies can help give people an appreciation of Hawai'i as a place for real business," said David Lassner, conference chairman and director of information technology at the University of Hawai'i.

Also plugging Hawai'i was a man billed by Time magazine as one of the 100 brightest minds of the 20th century: keynote speaker Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

"Some of you may be embarrassed about coming here and enjoying good weather, but anyone who went to our Boston conference and got snowed in doesn't feel bad at all," said Berners-Lee, before launching into a swift-spoken, if impenetrable to the layperson, lecture on the importance of programming protocols.