Adam & Collin strike again

I’m now at Usenix Security, which I’m micro-blogging over at Identi.ca. Sometimes, though, one talk merits more than a micro-blog. Currently, I’m listening to Adam Barth presenting his web-security paper (joint with Collin Jackson) on subtle but huge issues with frame navigation and communication. Top-notch stuff.

What’s fascinating to me about Adam & Collin’s research is that they are beginning to treat the web like a natural, self-evolving ecosystem within which experiments can be run. Think about that for a second: the web has become so complicated that, in order to understand it, we need to study it like a natural phenomenon, with many independent forces at play. Adam & Collin are a bit like genetic engineers of the web. They study the system like scientists, then, like engineers, find ways to tweak various forces at play in order to improve the overall system.

To me, it’s clear that Web Science has arrived. The Web is its own field of study. It builds on computer science, human-computer interaction, sociology, and policy. And more and more, studying the web requires a new specialization.