W3C TAG nomination: Introducing myself

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So some of you might have noticed that my employer Intel has nominated me for the W3C TAG, which is the technical advisory group, chartered with stewardship of the web architecture.

I realize that many of the AC representatives probably don’t know me, so I would like to use this opportunity to say a few things about myself, and why I believe I would be a good fit for the TAG.

The web has had a profound influence on my life, and it is how I got into technology in the first place. It took me around the world as it landed me a job in Brazil of all places, helped me learn about other cultures and learn multiple languages. It was essential in learning how to do house repairs and so many others skills that I have today — and it helped me make friends for life.

The web has not only had a profound effect on me, but for a lot of you too and for our society as a whole. Everyone can easily set up a web site or forum to share their passions, people can easily build new businesses online and reach a global audience, and information sharing is made easy by passing around URLs.

I cannot imagine a world without the web.

My story

Sometime around 94–95 I got my hands on a bit of money as part of my confirmation celebration and decided to invest in a computer, and a modem to try this new thing called the internet. There were a few bulletin boards and then there was this new thing called Mosaic, which quickly got replaced with Netscape. I was hooked from first sight! I had always had a love for technology, but never really had access to much, but this thing called the web and HTML really got me excited.

I had no idea how to program, but even little me was able to create a few web sites for some local businesses, which earned me a few pennies. I really wanted to do more, and become a real programmer, so I joined a few courses at a local university and flunked terribly — this was way beyond my abilities!

The next couple of years, I mostly became a user of the web and got really into studying cultures and learning languages, especially minority ones as I grew up on the countryside, speaking a dialect incomprehensive to most regular Danes. I found a few other people at school interested in technology, so Windows got replaced with something called Linux and my interest in technology and the web became renewed. School came to an end and I decided to study Physics and Computer Science, and in my spare time I got slowly involved with the open source community.

It didn’t came easy for me — at all. Hadn’t it been because I didn’t want to let my parents down, I would probably have thrown in the towel. I managed to pass, even with OK grades, but I had never programmed anything real and I had no idea how to start, so I moved on to the Netherlands and later Germany, in order to mix my master degree with a lot of practical experience.

It helped some, but things really changed when an online friend of mine, a guy who once wrote on my blog, told me that the company where he worked wanted to interview me for a potential position. The position happened to be at the Nokia Institute of Technology, in Brazil, where I ended up spending my next 5 years.

Nokia was a transformative experience for me. I got in a team with brilliant developers to whom I owe most of my abilities today, and I got to work very closely with designers on new emerging technologies such as touch interfaces, mobile adaptation, UX, performance, graphics, and ended up developing many native applications for these mobile devices, around the time of the iPhone.

Though I really enjoyed it, I still had a dream to work on the web — the thing that got me into technology in the first place, so when a manager “mistakenly” took me for being a web engine expert, I didn’t correct him and instead took on the challenge of porting WebKit to the Enlightenment Foundation Libraries.

I had wondered whether I had made a huge mistake and was a bit afraid it was going to blow up in my face, but I somehow managed to get WebKit ported to EFL and even have Flash running — by patching multiple libraries. I got my own little team to manage and it soon grew bigger. The code in WebKit didn’t include any mobile adaptations from iOS or Android at that point, so our main focus became to make WebKit ready for mobile, including touch adjustment, viewport meta tag support, tiled backing store, font enlargement etc. Nokia acquired Trolltech and I became part of the QtWebKit team and continued the same work, now on top of Qt WebKit. Me and a few other people had developed a mini browser to test our changes on an actual phone and one day I got a call from the ex-director of Mozilla’s mobile efforts, Christian Sejersen, and he offered me to move back to Denmark and build an actual browser product for Nokia.

Long story short, our QtWebKit team managed to build a browser in 9–12 months time and it became the default browser of the first and only MeeGo phone, the Nokia N9. I was super proud of the accomplishment and the nice reviews -and suddenly I had ended up becoming a browser expert.

Most people know that Nokia made some big changes and I didn’t see a place for myself in the new company, so after interviewing with a few companies I decided to join Intel, who was working with Samsung on the Tizen project, which happened to use the Enlightenment Foundation Libraries version of WebKit that I initially started for Nokia, hah!

The reason that I joined Intel was because I wanted to continue working on the web platform and really move it forward, and Intel seemed like the perfect place to make a difference given that they were doing very little on the web platform at that point.

Since then I helped move the company to contribute to Chromium and standards. I do wish we could contribute more to Mozilla and other projects, but resources are like always finite and we need to invest where it makes the most sense.

People generally don’t understand why Intel cares about the web platform, but part of the reason they care is because me and my team constantly makes sure the organization understand the value and the importance of the web platform, which is not an easy task, but we have managed to land in the top 4 with our contributions to Chromium and the W3C, and I am really proud of our contributions in the area of Progressive Web Apps, hardware connectivity, WebVR, WebAssembly, SIMD, graphics optimizations, etc, and I believe that our contributions have helped move the web forward.

One thing that became clear to me when working on Qt, was that you cannot develop a great platform without actually using it yourself. And yet, many of the people who work on browser engines have most likely never developed real modern web applications themselves.

Just look at this slide (shown below) from one of the people working on the V8 JavaScript engine :-)

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As a browser engineer, I was mostly coding C++ and like many fellow browser engineers, not using the platform myself — I set out to change that and I am forever grateful that I did. Yes, I actually do know JavaScript, CSS etc

This feels very familiar to me, and I used to be able to say the same :-)

For this reason, I decided that I had to become an actual web developer in order to know what me and my team had to focus on and to really understand the platform.

Fast forward to today, I am now also an actual web developer who edits specs, writes demos and polyfills and experiments with many of the new APIs — it has really been yet another transformative change for me, and I love it! It even landed me the title of Google Developer Expert in Web Technology and I became a frequent speaker at conferences and meetups. I have found out that I have a passion for helping people and bringing people together.

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Paneling at the ColdFront conference in 2017

Having this link to the web community has been essential in moving W3C specs forward and making sure that we listen to actual use-cases from our actual users, even those who don’t show up much in public like the established industry. Together with a friend, I have helped some companies move to web technology because of new technologies like web components, and bluetooth and usb connectivity.

Why vote for me

The web is a passion and a driving force for me and something that I hold very dear to my heart. The web has been attacked and been seen as dying numerous times, but we have managed to revert this trend every single time — but that only happens because so many people care deeply about the web and give a lot of their time and energy into moving the web forward.

I am one of these people. The platform is what I work on during and after work and it is what keeps me up at night. I really want the web to succeed because it is such a great platform, not just because of the technology but because of its reach and because it is owned by all of us. It is a platform that brings us all together, developers and browser vendors, people and companies.

But we do need to move the web forward and make sure it is relevant in an era of AI, machine learning, voice assistants, augmented reality, or whatever else comes next.

It should also be easy to develop modern and performant app-like experiences, without requiring lots of tools and abstractions, and developers should have access to the APIs they need in order to succeed.

That is no small undertaking, for instance exposing hardware capabilities can open up the door to many unforeseen security implications, but just because something is hard, that doesn’t mean we should drop it. I really want the web platform to be the application platform of the future, and that is what I focus on — and why I have spent so much time on co-editing specs related to Progressive Web Apps, as well as bridge people from different companies, all with the goal of the web becoming the future platform of choice.

In the TAG, I will use my broad overview of the platform in order to push the web forward, by aligning people, companies and ideas and bringing people with similar ideas together. I will help perform technical reviews of specs as requested in order to speed up the process. I will fight for the W3C and the TAG to be a diverse and open community that is inclusive. I will help tackle tough problems around security and UX such that we can give developers access to more powerful APIs, without compromising the web’s security model.

Written by

Chromium/Blink, WebKit and Web Platform hacker

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