World Wide Web Consortium (n. pr.)
|World Wide Web Consortium|
|Motto||Leading the Web to Its Full Potential|
|Purpose/focus||Developing protocols and guidelines that ensure long-term growth for the Web.|
|Location||MIT/CSAIL in USA, ERCIM in France, Keio University in Japan and many other offices around the world|
|Membership||351 member organizations|
Founded by Tim Berners-Lee at MIT and currently headed by him, 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 29 March 2012[update], the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has 351 members.
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), which had pioneered the Internet and its predecessor ARPANET.
W3C was created to ensure compatibility and agreement among industry members in the adoption of new standards. Prior to its creation, incompatible versions of HTML were offered by different vendors, increasing the potential for inconsistency between web pages. The consortium was created to get all those vendors to agree on a set of core principles and components which would be supported by everyone.
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 Institut national de recherche en informatique et en automatique (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 has 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 January 2003, the European host was transferred from INRIA to the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM), an organization that represents European national computer science laboratories.
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In accord with the W3C Process Document, a Recommendation progresses through five maturity levels:
A Recommendation may be updated by separately published Errata until enough substantial edits accumulate, at which time a new edition of the Recommendation may be produced (e.g., XML is now in its fifth edition). W3C also publishes various kinds of informative Notes which are not intended to be treated as standards.
W3C leaves it up to manufacturers to follow the Recommendations. Many of its standards define levels of conformance, which the developers must follow if they wish to label their product W3C-compliant. Like any standards of other organizations, W3C recommendations are sometimes implemented partially. The Recommendations are under a royalty-free patent license, allowing anyone to implement them.
Unlike the ISOC and other international standards bodies, the W3C does not have a certification program. A certification program is a process which has benefits and drawbacks; 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 Consortium is jointly administered by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL, located in Stata Center) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) (in Sophia Antipolis, France), and Keio University (in Japan). 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 W3C's geographical base, and encourage international participation in W3C Activities.
W3C has a relatively small staff team, around 50–60 worldwide recently (as of 2010). The CEO of W3C as of Dec. 2010 is Jeffrey Jaffe, former CTO of Novell. The majority of standardization work is done by external experts in 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.
Membership requirements are transparent except for one requirement. An application for membership must be reviewed and approved by 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.
The W3C has been criticized as being dominated by larger organizations and thus writing standards that represent their interests. For example, a member of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (WCAG WG) complained that:
The process is stacked in favour of multinationals with expense accounts who can afford to talk on the phone for two hours a week and jet to world capitals for meetings.
A similar criticism, responding to large software company complaints about the slow pace of W3C's formulation of XML/web services standards, appeared in Cnet's news.com in 2002:
"I'm not convinced that developers are too bothered," said Edd Dumbill, editor of XML.com, who has worked as a software developer on Web services. "I think developers are being poorly served by the fact that the big companies have dominated the work of the W3C over the last year. The W3C does more or less what its members tell it to. So I don't have a huge amount of sympathy for the complaints of large companies."
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