The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web (abbreviated WWW or W3). The W3C mission is to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web.
1 W3C History
2 Specification maturation
2.1 Working draft (WD)
2.2 Candidate recommendation (CR)
2.3 Proposed recommendation (PR)
2.4 W3C recommendation (REC)
2.5 Later revisions
4 W3C Membership
4.1 Membership benefits
5 W3C Standards
Founded and currently led by Tim Berners-Lee, the consortium is made up of member organizations which maintain full-time staff for the purpose of working together in the development of standards for the World Wide Web. As of June 2016, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has more than 420 members.
The W3C also engages in education and outreach, develops software and serves as an open forum for discussion about the Web.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was founded by Tim Berners-Lee after he left the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in October, 1994. It was founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Computer Science (MIT/LCS, CSAIL) with support from the European Commission and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which had pioneered the Internet and its predecessor ARPANET.
The organization tries to foster compatibility and agreement among industry members in the adoption of new standards defined by the W3C. Incompatible versions of HTML are offered by different vendors, causing inconsistency in how web pages are displayed. The consortium tries to get all those vendors to implement a set of core principles and components which are chosen by the consortium.
It was originally intended that CERN host the European branch of W3C; however, CERN wished to focus on particle physics, not information technology. In April 1995, the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (INRIA) became the European host of W3C, with Keio University becoming the Japanese branch in September 1996.
Starting in 1997, W3C created regional offices around the world. As of September 2009, it had eighteen World Offices covering Australia, the Benelux countries (Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium), Brazil, China, Finland, Germany, Austria, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, South Korea, Morocco, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom and Ireland.
In October 2012, W3C convened a community of major web players and publishers to establish a MediaWiki wiki that seeks to document open web standards called the WebPlatform and WebPlatform Docs.
W3C specification maturation
Sometimes, when a specification becomes too large, it is split into independent modules which can mature at their own pace. Subsequent editions of a module or specification are known as levels and are denoted by the first integer in the title (e.g. CSS3 = Level 3). Subsequent revisions on each level are denoted by an integer following a decimal point (e.g. CSS2.1 = Revision 1).
The W3C standard formation process is defined within the W3C process document, outlining four (4) maturity levels through which each new standard or recommendation must progress.
1 – Working draft (WD)
After enough content has been gathered from ‘editor drafts’ and discussion, it may be published as a working draft (WD) for review by the community. A WD document is the first form of a standard that is publicly available. Commentary by virtually anyone is accepted, though no promises are made with regard to action on any particular element commented upon.
At this stage, the standard document may have significant differences from its final form. As such, anyone who implements WD standards should be ready to significantly modify their implementations as the standard matures.
2 – Candidate recommendation (CR)
A candidate recommendation is a version of a standard that is more mature than the working draft (WD). At this point, the group responsible for the standard is satisfied that the standard meets its goal. The purpose of the CR is to elicit aid from the development community as to how implementable the standard is.
The standard document may change further, but at this point, significant features are mostly decided. The design of those features can still change due to feedback from implementors.
3 – Proposed recommendation (PR)
A proposed recommendation is the version of a standard that has passed the prior two levels. The users of the standard provide input. At this stage, the document is submitted to the W3C Advisory Council for final approval.
While this step is important, it rarely causes any significant changes to a standard as it passes to the next phase.
Both candidates and proposals may enter “last call” to signal that any further feedback must be provided.
4 – W3C recommendation (REC)
This is the most mature stage of development. At this point, the standard has undergone extensive review and testing, under both theoretical and practical conditions. The standard is now endorsed by the W3C, indicating its readiness for deployment to the public, and encouraging more widespread support among implementors and authors.
Recommendations can sometimes be implemented incorrectly, partially, or not at all, but many standards define two or more levels of conformance that developers must follow if they wish to label their product as W3C-compliant.
Later specification revisions
A recommendation may be updated or extended by separately-published, non-technical errata or editor drafts until sufficient substantial edits accumulate for producing a new edition or level of the recommendation. Additionally, the W3C publishes various kinds of informative notes which are to be used as references.
Certification of specifications?
Unlike the ISOC and other international standards bodies, the W3C does not have a certification program. The W3C has decided, for now, that it is not suitable to start such a program, owing to the risk of creating more drawbacks for the community than benefits.
The W3 Consortium is jointly administered by the:
- MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL, in Stata Center, USA);
- European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) (Sophia Antipolis, France);
- Keio University (Japan);
- Beihang University (China).
The W3C also has World Offices in sixteen regions around the world. They work with their regional web communities to promote W3C technologies in local languages, broaden the W3C’s geographical base and encourage international participation in W3C Activities.
The W3C has a staff team of ~80 people worldwide as of 2015. W3C is run by a management team which allocates resources and designs strategy, led by CEO Jeffrey Jaffe (as of March 2010), former CTO of Novell. It also includes an advisory board which supports in strategy and legal matters and helps resolve conflicts. The majority of standardization work is done by external experts in the W3C’s various working groups.
The Consortium is governed by its membership. The list of members is available to the public. Members include businesses, nonprofit organizations, universities, governmental entities, and individuals. Organizations join W3C to drive the direction of core Web technology and exchange ideas with industry and research leaders.
The biggest russian search engine Yandex as a member of the W3C:
Membership requirements are transparent except for one requirement: an application for membership must be reviewed and approved by the W3C. Many guidelines and requirements are stated in detail, but there is no final guideline about the process or standards by which membership might be finally approved or denied.
The cost of membership is given on a sliding scale, depending on the character of the organization applying and the country in which it is located. Countries are categorized by the World Bank’s most recent grouping by GNI (Gross National Income) per capita.
W3C membership benefits
The W3C members themselves have indicated that what is most important to them about their membership is:
- Interaction. The opportunity to interact and work directly with the leading companies, organizations, and individuals in the Web world.
- Strategy. The ability to provide strategic direction to the Consortium through review of W3C Activity proposals and operational policies.
- Participation. Participation in W3C Working Groups, Interest Groups, and Business Groups, shaping the technologies that enable businesses and their customers.
- Leadership. Demonstrate technical leadership through a commitment to ensure the vitality of the Open Web Platform.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) also benefit:
- Partnership. Through a variety of online and in-person opportunities, W3C helps SMEs meet their peers and establish new business relationships.
- Early Access. Agility can enable SMEs to out-perform their bigger rivals. Agility through Membership can help SMEs stay ahead of the competition and enter new markets early.
- Leverage. Building a market around a new usage of the Web can be a major obstacle for the growth of smaller companies. To bring an idea deployed to the scale of the Web, W3C standardization provide a unique opportunity to achieve broad adoption on diverse software and devices.
- Education. The world’s experts on the Web exchange and confront their points of view in W3C groups. It’s hard to beat conversations with W3C partners as a way to learn in depth how the Web works, and how to make it better.
- Promotion. SMEs can promote their commitment to open standards, through press release and home page testimonials, sponsorship visibility, interviews, and more.
And research organizations also benefit:
- Forum for ideas. W3C is an open forum for the exchange of ideas and technology solutions, giving researchers insights from around the world.
- Bridge from research. W3C helps research organizations establish a bridge from their innovations to industry implementation.
W3C standards define an Open Web Platform for application development that has the unprecedented potential to enable developers to build rich interactive experiences, powered by vast data stores, that are available on any device. Although the boundaries of the platform continue to evolve, industry leaders speak nearly in unison about how HTML5 will be the cornerstone for this platform. But the full strength of the platform relies on many more technologies that W3C and its partners are creating, including CSS, SVG, WOFF, the Semantic Web stack, XML, and a variety of APIs.
W3C develops these technical specifications and guidelines through a process designed to maximize consensus about the content of a technical report, to ensure high technical and editorial quality, and to earn endorsement by W3C and the broader community.
W3C continues to evolve to provide the community a productive environment for creating Web standards. W3C standards:
- are created following a consensus-based decision process;
- consider aspects of accessibility, privacy, security, and internationalization;
- reflect the views of diverse industries and global stakeholders;
- balance speed, fairness, public accountability, and quality;
- benefit from Royalty-Free patent licensing commitments from participants;
- are stable (and W3C seeks to ensure their persistence at the published URI);
- benefit from wide review from groups inside and outside W3C;
- are downloadable at no cost;
- are maintained in a predictable fashion;
- are strengthened through interoperability testing.
W3C and IETF standards (over Internet protocol suite):
- XML Events
- XML Schema