Note: This document has been superseded by a set of revised pages About W3C.
You've heard it: the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) creates Web standards. W3C's mission is to lead the Web to its full potential, which it does by developing technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) that will create a forum for information, commerce, inspiration, independent thought, and collective understanding. This summary in 7 points explains W3C's goals and operating principles.
W3C defines the Web as the universe of network-accessible information (available through your computer, phone, television, or networked refrigerator...). Today this universe benefits society by enabling new forms of human communication and opportunities to share knowledge. One of W3C's primary goals is to make these benefits available to all people, whatever their hardware, software, network infrastructure, native language, culture, geographical location, or physical or mental ability. W3C's Internationalization Activity, Device Independence Activity, Voice Browser Activity, and Web Accessibility Initiative all illustrate our commitment to universal access.
People currently share their knowledge on the Web in language intended for other people. On the Semantic Web ("semantic" means "having to do with meaning"), we will be able to express ourselves in terms that our computers can interpret and exchange. By doing so, we will enable them to solve problems that we find tedious, to help us find quickly what we're looking for: medical information, a movie review, a book purchase order, etc. The W3C languages RDF, XML, XML Schema, and XML signatures are the building blocks of the Semantic Web.
The Web is a collaborative medium, not read-only like a magazine. In fact, the first Web browser was also an editor, though most people today think of browsing as primarily viewing, not interacting. To promote a more collaborative environment, we must build a "Web of Trust" that offers confidentiality, instills confidence, and makes it possible for people to take responsibility for (or be accountable for) what they publish on the Web. These goals drive much of W3C's work around XML signatures, annotation mechanisms, group authoring, versioning, etc.
Twenty years ago, people bought software that only worked with other software from the same vendor. Today, people have more freedom to choose, and they rightly expect software components to be interchangeable. They also expect to be able to view Web content with their preferred software (graphical desktop browser, speech synthesizer, braille display, car phone...). W3C, a vendor-neutral organization, promotes interoperability by designing and promoting open (non-proprietary) computer languages and protocols that avoid the market fragmentation of the past. This is achieved through industry consensus and encouraging an open forum for discussion.
W3C aims for technical excellence but is well aware that what we know and need today may be insufficient to solve tomorrow's problems. We therefore strive to build a Web that can easily evolve into an even better Web, without disrupting what already works. The principles of simplicity, modularity, compatibility, and extensibility guide all of our designs.
Decentralization is a principle of modern distributed systems, including societies. In a centralized system, every message or action has to pass through a central authority, causing bottlenecks when the traffic increases. In design, we therefore limit the number of central Web facilities to reduce the vulnerability of the Web as a whole. Flexibility is the necessary companion of distributed systems, and the life and breath of the Internet, not just the Web.
Who wouldn't like more interactivity and richer media on the Web, including resizable images, quality sound, video, 3D effects, and animation? W3C's consensus process does not limit content provider creativity or mean boring browsing. Through its membership, W3C listens to end-users and works toward providing a solid framework for the development of the Cooler Web through languages such as the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) language and the Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL).
W3C was founded in October 1994 to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability. Today, W3C has over 450 Members and nearly 70 full-time staff around the world who contribute to the development of W3C specifications and software. Find out more about:
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Last modified: $Date: 2005/12/15 18:41:12 $