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Author: Joseph Reagle

Audience: Class of Harvard STP307: The Internet: Business, Law and Strategy

Question: How do the Internet standards setting institutions work and what are the differences and the resulting implications?


  1. Scott Bradner. "The IETF."   from Open Sources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution.
  2. Joseph Reagle. Why The Internet is Good: Community Governance That Works Well. (19990326)

The W3C (and IETF)

Joseph M. Reagle Jr. (W3C/LCS/MIT)

  1. Joint IETF/W3C XML Signatures Co-Chair
  2. Contributed to evolution of process (proposed the Candidate REC level similar to IETF Proposed Standard).
  3. Contributed to the W3C copyright licenses.

W3C Background


Working Groups (WGs) consist of individuals from


Principal Design ietf-draft/authors group (can be competitive) submission/WG
Subsequent Design calls between authors and list conference calls (minuted) and list
Review ietf-drafts technical reports (<= 3 months)

There are substantive cultural differences:

  1. the level of coordination between WGs.
  2. the use of paid staff
  3. the use of teleconferences.
  4. the time frame and length (maturity) for specification advancement.
  5. the use of ASCII versus HTML/XML (and philosophy of URIs)

W3C Consensus

(All of this happens during many iterations of public drafts.)

  1. WG Last Call: does the WG feel its satisfied its requirements and that all open  issues have been closed (and minority views documented).
  2. W3C Last Call: does the WG deliverables satisfy dependent WGs (users of the spec, WAI (accessible content), I18N (internationalization), etc.)
  3. W3C Candidate REC: is the specification being implemented by the community?
  4. Director (helped by Team) reviews all technical comments, requirements, and dependencies, advances to the Advisory Committee as Proposed REC.
  5. Advisory Committee "votes" to inform Director as to whether make it a REC. (Does the W3C Recommend this as a useful thing for the Web?)

W3C Intellectual Property

W3C/IETF Characteristics of Technical Policy