World Wide Web Consortium

"WWWC" redirects here. For the radio station, see WWWC (AM).
World Wide Web Consortium
Abbreviation W3C
Motto Leading the Web to Its Full Potential
Formation October 1, 1994 (1994-10-01)
Type Standards organization
Purpose Developing protocols and guidelines that ensure long-term growth for the Web.
Headquarters Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
Region served
423 member organizations[2]
Tim Berners-Lee

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web (abbreviated WWW or W3).

Founded and currently led by Tim Berners-Lee,[3] 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 2 June 2016, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has 423 members.[2]

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) with support from the European Commission and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA),[3] 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 as of 2016 the United Kingdom and Ireland.[4]

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.

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 maturity levels through which each new standard or recommendation must progress.[5]

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.[5]

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.[5]

Candidate recommendation (CR)

A candidate recommendation is a version of a standard that is more mature than the 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.[5]

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.[5]

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.[5]

While this step is important, it rarely causes any significant changes to a standard as it passes to the next phase.[5]

Both candidates and proposals may enter "last call" to signal that any further feedback must be provided.

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.[5]

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.[5]

Later 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.[5]


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.[5]


The Consortium is jointly administered by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL, located in Stata Center[6]) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) (in Sophia Antipolis, France), Keio University (in Japan) and Beihang University (in China).[7] The W3C also has World Offices in sixteen regions around the world. The W3C Offices 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 70–80 worldwide as of 2015.[8] W3C is run by a management team which allocates resources and designs strategy, led by CEO Jeffrey Jaffe (as of March 2010),[9] former CTO of Novell. It also includes an advisory board which supports in strategy and legal matters and helps resolve conflicts.[10] 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.[2] Members include businesses, nonprofit organizations, universities, governmental entities, and individuals.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13] Countries are categorized by the World Bank's most recent grouping by GNI ("Gross National Income") per capita.[14]


In 2012 and 2013, the W3C started considering adding DRM-specific Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) to HTML5, which was criticised as being against the openness, interoperability, and vendor neutrality that distinguished websites built using only W3C standards from those requiring proprietary plug-ins like Flash.[15][16][17][18][19]


W3C/IETF standards (over Internet protocol suite):


  1. "W3C Invites Chinese Web Developers, Industry, Academia to Assume Greater Role in Global Web Innovation". 2013-01-20. Retrieved 2013-11-30.
  2. 1 2 3 "World Wide Web Consortium – current Members". World Wide Web Consortium. 29 March 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  3. 1 2 W3C (September 2009). "World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) About the Consortium". Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  4. Jacobs, Ian (June 2009). "W3C Offices". Retrieved 14 September 2009.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "World Wide Web Consortium | Development Process". 2005-04-12. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
  6. "W3C Contact". 2006-10-31. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
  7. "Facts About W3C". W3C. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  8. "W3C people list". Retrieved 2012-04-03.
  9. "W3C pulls former Novell CTO for CEO spot". 2010-03-08. Retrieved 2012-04-03.
  10. "The World Wide Web Consortium: Building a Better Internet". Mays Digital. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  11. W3C (2010). "Membership FAQ – W3C". Retrieved 7 August 2010.
  12. Jacobs, Ian (2008). "Join W3C". Retrieved 14 September 2008.
  13. W3C Membership Fee Calculator
  14. "World Bank Country Classification". Retrieved 3 July 2010.
  15. Cory Doctorow (2013-03-12). "What I wish Tim Berners-Lee understood about DRM". Technology blog at Archived from the original on 2013-04-06. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
  16. Glyn Moody (2013-02-13). "BBC Attacks the Open Web, GNU/Linux in Danger". Open Enterprise blog at Archived from the original on 2013-04-06. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
  17. Scott Gilbertson (2013-02-12). "DRM for the Web? Say It Ain't So". Webmonkey. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on 2013-04-06. Retrieved 2013-03-21.
  18. "Tell W3C: We don't want the Hollyweb". Defective by Design. Free Software Foundation. March 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-04-06. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
  19. Danny O'Brien (October 2013). "Lowering Your Standards: DRM and the Future of the W3C". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  20. Groth, Paul; Moreau, Luc (April 30, 2013). "PROV-Overview: An Overview of the PROV Family of Documents". World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved April 8, 2016.

External links

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