What role does W3C play
W3C Term Explanation and Definition
The foundation at MIT
On October 1, 1994, around a year after the breakthrough of the World Wide Web, the World Wide Web Consortium was founded by Tim Berners-Lee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. Berners-Lee is still the director of the W3C today.
The W3C was founded as an international industrial consortium. The reason for the establishment as a member organization was the desire of many companies and research institutions for a network infrastructure that should be based on international standards. The results of the working groups that worked on standards before the founding of the W3C were not useful. The WWW threatened to become inconsistent and useless despite a multitude of new browsers. Instead of these working groups, Berners-Lee preferred an organization that consistently promoted and coordinated the further development of the WWW. Such an organization should also prevent the global character of the WWW from being sacrificed in order to obtain partial commercial or academic solutions. The W3C was set up with the support of the European Nuclear Research Center CERN, the European Commission and the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), an agency of the US Department of Defense.
In addition to its headquarters in the USA, the W3C now operates seventeen official offices, including in Germany and Austria. Membership in the consortium is possible for any type of organization. This applies to commercial enterprises as well as to research institutions, universities, non-profit associations or government organizations. Each of the currently more than 350 member organizations from 28 countries has the opportunity to send employees to the working groups and the right to submit proposals for development processes and to be represented in the advisory committee of the W3C.
Process flows in the W3C
The development of specifications and standards takes place in the W3C according to clearly defined processes. In addition to fairness and responsiveness, transparency and maximum consensus are the top priority of the work. Member organization staff and the public can participate in these processes. Workshops form the basis for processes and new activities. Interested members can come together in these workshops to discuss possible techniques. At the same time contact is sought with other organizations that are also working on the development of web standards. Efficient communication with other organizations is sought in order to publish new developments promptly.
50 to 60 permanent employees, mainly researchers and engineers, lead the processes in the W3C team and organize the cooperation with the member organizations. These staff are usually employed by the three hosting organizations - Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Keio University in Japan, and the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics.
An important institution within the W3C is the W3C Advisory Board. This board only has an advisory function and provides support, for example, in legal matters, in resolving conflicts or strategic issues. An important task of the board is also the further development of the publicly accessible W3C process document, which regulates all process flows.
The W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG) deals with web architecture. In this group, technical aspects of web architecture are taken up and new principles are developed.
An essential component of the processes is the patent policy for patents, which play a decisive role in the development of web standards. The aim is that the standards and recommendations can be implemented without a patent fee.
Development of standards
ISO standards cannot be established by the W3C. The W3C is not an internationally recognized body. Nonetheless, the standards developed and established by the W3C are suitable for forming the basis for ISO standards. The developed XML is an example. This overall situation means that the W3C itself speaks of recommendations. Nevertheless, the W3C endeavors to use transfer processes, for example “Fast Track”, so that standards that are fundamentally free of patent fees can be sustainably maintained.
The development processes for W3C recommendations are usually structured in the same way. First of all, there is a working draft. At this stage, members and the public have the opportunity to comment on the draft. Once this working draft has been completed, a final call is made (Last Call Working Draft). Once this time has passed, it is no longer possible to comment on the working draft. In the next stage of work, the candidate recommendation is presented. The working group will already implement the technology for the recommendation candidate. Experiences from this work stage are collected and documented. The recommendation candidate ultimately becomes a proposed recommendation. This proposal is submitted to the advisory committee for a vote by the members. A new recommendation is only born when the approval is given.
The recommendation can be corrected again and again, a decision can be made that a recommendation has to go through a previous stage up to the working draft or recommendations for revision are postponed. All documentation for these levels can be read online at all times. Transparency and traceability are very important.
A newly developed or revised recommendation is only to be understood as an instruction. With the help of this instruction, a certain technology can be implemented successfully and according to valid international standards.
The best known of the more than 80 recommendations that the W3C has made so far include the web markup language HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), the further development XML (Extensible Markup Language) and the descriptive supplementary language CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Every web designer is confronted with these recommendations and the resulting standards on a daily basis.
Goals of the W3C
The challenges that the WWW poses to developments today are greater than they were five or ten years ago. The primary goal of the W3C is therefore to make the WWW accessible to everyone. It may not matter which device is used to access the WWW, which culture or language the user has or which intellectual abilities the user has. The topic of end devices is particularly important. It must be equally easy to use the web from any device.
The development of technologies, for example HTML to XML, means that new content can always be made available to the user. So that users all over the world can use this content, the W3C is also working on the internationalization of the WWW. This includes, for example, the multilingualism of the documents, but also making web technologies possible in developing countries.
At the same time, the web should not only be seen as an information and communication system, but also as an opportunity to enable and simplify work processes. The web as an aid for problem solving which up to now could not be worked on because of its complexity. This is another key goal.
Just as fairness, transparency and traceability play a major role in the development processes, security and trust on the web are a major concern for the people behind W3C. An important and long-term goal of the W3C consortium lies in technologies that not only promote increased communal cooperation, but also enable steadily growing trust combined with a sense of responsibility.
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