W3C Process Document

5 Technical Reports

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W3C publishes two types of technical reports:

Recommendation track technical reports
These are specifications, guidelines, etc. produced by Working Groups. Technical reports on the Recommendation track may progress from Working Draft to Last Call Working Draft to Candidate Recommendation to Proposed Recommendation and finally to Recommendation.
W3C Notes
A W3C Note is a dated, public record of an idea, comment, or document. Notes are published at the discretion of the Director. Authorship of a Note may vary greatly (e.g., by the Team, by a W3C Working Group, by a W3C Member, etc.). Some examples of when W3C publishes a Note include:

All public technical reports [PUB11] are available at the Web site. W3C will make every effort to make archival documents indefinitely available at their original address in their original form.

5.1 General Information about Technical Reports

The Team is not required to publish a technical report that does not conform to the Team's publication rules [MEM11] (for naming, style, copyright requirements, etc.). These rules are subject to change. The Team must inform group Chairs of any changes.

The Team reserves the right to reformat technical reports at any time so as to conform to changes in W3C practice (e.g., changes to technical report styles or the "Status of this Document" section).

Each public technical report must clearly indicate whether it is a Note, Working Draft, Last Call Working Draft, Candidate Recommendation, Proposed Recommendation, or Recommendation.

The primary language for W3C technical reports is English. W3C encourages the translation of its technical reports. Information about translations of W3C technical reports [PUB18] is available at the Web site.

5.1.1 Document Status Section

Each technical report must include a section about the status of the document. The status section should explain why W3C has published the technical report, whether or not it is part of the Recommendation track, who developed it, where to send comments about it, whether implementation experience is being sought, any significant changes from the previous version, and any other relevant metadata.

The status section of a Working Draft must set expectations about the stability of the work (e.g., that it may be superseded, obsoleted, or dropped at any time, that it should not be cited as other than a work in progress, etc.) and must indicate the how much consensus within W3C there is about the Working Draft (e.g., no consensus, consensus among the Working Group participants, etc.).

The status section of a Note must indicate the level of endorsement within or by W3C for the material in the Note, and set expectations about future commitments from W3C to pursue the topics covered by the Note or to respond to comments about the Note.

5.2 The W3C Recommendation Track

The W3C "Recommendation track" is the process that W3C follows to build consensus around a Web technology, both within W3C and in the Web community as a whole. W3C turns a technical report into a Recommendation by following this process. The labels that describe increasing levels of maturity and consensus along the Recommendation track are:

Working Draft
A technical report on the Recommendation track begins as a Working Draft. A Working Draft is a chartered work item of a Working Group and generally represents work in progress and a commitment by W3C to pursue work in a particular area. The label "Working Draft" does not imply that there is consensus within W3C about the technical report.
Last Call Working Draft
A Last Call Working Draft is a special instance of a Working Draft that is considered by the Working Group to fulfill the relevant requirements of its charter and any accompanying requirements documents. A Last Call Working Draft is a public technical report for which the Working Group seeks technical review from other W3C groups, W3C Members, and the public.
Candidate Recommendation
A Candidate Recommendation is believed to meet the relevant requirements of the Working Group's charter and any accompanying requirements documents, and has been published in order to gather implementation experience and feedback. Advancement of a technical report to Candidate Recommendation is an explicit call for implementation experience to those outside of the related Working Groups or the W3C itself.
Proposed Recommendation
A Proposed Recommendation is believed to meet the relevant requirements of the Working Group's charter and any accompanying requirements documents, to represent sufficient implementation experience, and to adequately address dependencies from the W3C technical community and comments from previous reviewers. A Proposed Recommendation is a technical report that the Director has sent to the Advisory Committee for review.
W3C Recommendation
A W3C Recommendation is a technical report that is the end result of extensive consensus-building inside and outside of W3C about a particular technology or policy. W3C considers that the ideas or technology specified by a Recommendation are appropriate for widespread deployment and promote W3C's mission [PUB15]

Diagram of Recommendation track maturity level transitions

Possible transitions of the Recommendation track

Generally, Working Groups create Working Drafts with the intent of advancing them along the Recommendation track. However, publication of a technical report at one maturity level does not guarantee that it will advance to the next. Some technical reports may be dropped as active work or may be subsumed by other technical reports. If, at any maturity level of the Recommendation track, work on a technical report ceases (e.g., because a Working Group or Activity closes, or because the work is subsumed by another technical report), the technical report should be published as a W3C Note and the status section should include the rationale.

Every technical report on the Recommendation track is edited by one or more editors appointed by a Working Group Chair. It is the responsibility of these editors to ensure that the decisions of the group are correctly reflected in subsequent drafts of the technical report. Editors are not required to be part of the Team.

Working Groups must archive each decision to request advancement of a technical report to the next maturity level of the Recommendation track.

Any time a technical report advances to a higher maturity level, the announcement of the transition must indicate any formal objections.

If, at any maturity level prior to Recommendation, review comments or implementation experience result in substantive changes to a technical report, the technical report should be returned to Working Draft for further work.

5.2.1 Working Draft (WD)

Entrance criteria. The Director must approve publication of a first public Working Draft (or version for review beyond the Membership).

Publication of a Working Draft is not an assertion of consensus, of endorsement, or of technical and editorial quality. Consensus is not a prerequisite for approval to publish; the Working Group may request publication of a Working Draft even if it is unstable and does not meet all Working Group requirements.

Ongoing work. Once a Working Draft has been published, the Working Group should continue to develop it by encouraging review and feedback within and outside of W3C. To accommodate the schedules other Working Groups, the Working Group should negotiate review by those Working Groups, possibly prior to a formal review period such as Last Call.

Possible next maturity level. The Working Group may advance a Working Draft to Last Call Working Draft.

5.2.2 Last Call Working Draft

Entrance criteria. Before advancing a technical report to Last Call Working Draft, the Working Group must:

  1. fulfill the relevant requirements of the Working Group charter and those of any accompanying requirements documents, or document which relevant requirements they have not fulfilled;
  2. formally address all issues raised by Working Group participants, other Working Groups, the Membership, and the public about the Working Draft.

The Working Group advances a technical report to Last Call by sending a call for review to other W3C groups (refer to "How to organize a Last Call review" in the Member Guide [MEM9]). A Last Call announcement must:

  1. specify the deadline for review comments;
  2. identify known dependencies and solicit review from all dependent Working Groups;
  3. solicit public review. Consequently, a Last Call Working Draft must be a public document.

Duration of the review. Generally, a Last Call review period is three weeks long, but it may be longer if the technical report is complex or has significant external dependencies. The Working Group should negotiate the Last Call schedule with known dependent groups.

Ongoing work. During a Last Call review period, the Working Group should solicit and respond to comments from the Team, the Members, other W3C groups, and the public. Advisory Committee representatives are strongly encouraged to review Last Call Working Drafts so that substantive issues are raised and addressed prior to Candidate Recommendation and well before Proposed Recommendation.

To ensure the proper integration of a technical report in the international community, from this point on in the Recommendation process it must include a statement about how the technology relates to existing international standards and to related work outside of W3C.

Possible next maturity levels. After a Last Call review, the Working Group may request that the Director advance the technical report to Candidate Recommendation or Proposed Recommendation. If the Director does not advance the technical report to Candidate Recommendation or Proposed Recommendation, the Director must return it to Working Draft by announcement to all W3C groups.

5.2.3 Candidate Recommendation (CR)

Entrance criteria. Before advancing a technical report to Candidate Recommendation, the Director must be satisfied that:

  1. the Working Group has fulfilled the relevant requirements of the Working Group charter and those of any accompanying requirements documents. The Director must be satisfied with the rationale for any relevant requirements that have not been fulfilled;
  2. the Working Group has formally addressed all issues raised during the Last Call review period (possibly modifying the technical report);
  3. the Working Group has reported all formal objections;
  4. the Working Group has resolved dependencies with other groups.

The Working Group is not required to show that a technical report has two independent and interoperable implementations as part of a request to advance to Candidate Recommendation. However, the Working Group is encouraged to include a report of present and expected implementation as part of the request.

The request to the Director to advance a technical report to Candidate Recommendation should indicate whether the Working Group expects to satisfy any Proposed Recommendation entrance criteria beyond the default requirements (described below).

The Director advances a technical report to Candidate Recommendation by sending a call for implementation experience to the Advisory Committee (refer to "How to organize a Candidate Recommendation review" in the Member Guide [MEM9]). Advisory Committee representatives may appeal the decision to advance the technical report.

Duration of the implementation period. The Director's call for implementation experience must indicate a minimal duration for the Candidate Recommendation period (designed to allow time for review comments). The announcement should also include the Working Group's estimate of the time expected to gather sufficient implementation data.

Ongoing work. The Working Group may update the technical report during the Candidate Recommendation period if those updates clarify existing meaning or consensus.

Possible next maturity levels. After a Candidate Recommendation implementation period, the Working Group may request that the Director advance the technical report to Proposed Recommendation. If the Director does not advance the technical report to Proposed Recommendation, the Director must return the technical report to Working Draft by announcement to the Advisory Committee.

5.2.4 Proposed Recommendation (PR)

Entrance criteria. Before advancing a technical report to Proposed Recommendation, the Director must be satisfied that:

  1. the Working Group has fulfilled the relevant requirements of the Working Group charter and those of any accompanying requirements documents. The Director must be satisfied with the rationale for any relevant requirements that have not been fulfilled;
  2. the Working Group has formally addressed issues raised during the previous review or implementation period (possibly modifying the technical report);
  3. the Working Group has reported all formal objections;
  4. each feature of the technical report has been implemented. Preferably, the Working Group should be able to demonstrate two interoperable implementations of each feature. If the Director believes that immediate Advisory Committee review is critical to the success of a technical report, the Director may advance the technical report to Proposed Recommendation even without adequate implementation experience. In this case, the technical report status section should indicate why the Director advanced the technical report directly to Proposed Recommendation;
  5. the Working Group has satisfied any other announced entrance criteria (e.g., any announced in the request to advance to Candidate Recommendation).

The Director advances a technical report to Proposed Recommendation by sending a call for review to the Advisory Committee (refer to "How to start Member review of a Proposed Recommendation" in the Member Guide [MEM9]). Advisory Committee representatives may appeal the decision to advance the technical report.

Duration of the review. The Proposed Recommendation review period must be at least four weeks.

Ongoing work. During the Proposed Recommendation review period, the Working Group should request endorsement and support from the Membership (e.g., testimonials for a press release).

The Director should ask the Working Group to address, in a timely manner, significant issues raised by the Advisory Committee during a Proposed Recommendation review. If asked by the Director, the Working Group must formally address these issues. Formal replies may be sent to reviewers after the end of the review (e.g., for reviews sent at the end of the review period). Note: The Team contact must make every effort to ensure appropriate confidentiality when conveying issues raised by Advisory Committee representatives to the Working Group.

During a Proposed Recommendation review, the Working Group should also formally address informed and relevant issues raised outside the Advisory Committee (e.g., by the public or another W3C Working Group), and report them to the Director in a timely fashion.

Advisory Committee representatives should encourage a thorough review by their organization of the technical report at Last Call or earlier, rather than at the Proposed Recommendation stage. Advisory Committee representatives may still raise issues in their review about the technical content of a Proposed Recommendation.

Possible next maturity levels. The Director may advance the technical report to Recommendation, possibly with minor changes from the version reviewed by the Advisory Committee. If the Director does not advance the technical report to Recommendation, the Director must return the technical report to either Candidate Recommendation or Working Draft.

Whatever the decision, it must take the form of an announcement to the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee should not expect an announcement sooner than two weeks after the Proposed Recommendation review period. If, after three weeks, the Director has not announced the outcome, the Director should provide the Advisory Committee with an update.

5.2.5 Recommendation (REC)

Entrance criteria. The Director must be satisfied that there is significant support for the technical report from the Advisory Committee, the Team, W3C Working groups, and the public. The decision to advance a document to Recommendation is a W3C decision.

The Director advances a technical report to Recommendation by sending an announcement to the Advisory Committee. If there was any dissent in the Proposed Recommendation reviews, Advisory Committee representatives may appeal the decision to advance the technical report.

Ongoing work. W3C should make every effort to maintain its Recommendations (e.g., by tracking errata, providing testbed applications, helping to create test suites, etc.) and to encourage widespread implementation. The Working Group and editors should track errata and document clarifications.

W3C may publish a revised version of a Recommendation to make minor clarifications, error corrections, or editorial repairs, without following the Recommendation track. The status section of an editorial revision must indicate its relationship to previous versions (e.g., that it supersedes previous versions). The Team must notify the Members when an editorial revision of a Recommendation is published.

If more substantial revisions to a Recommendation are necessary, a Working Group must follow the Recommendation process to produce the revision. The status section of any Recommendation must indicate its relationship to previous related Recommendations (e.g., an indication that a Recommendation supersedes, obsoletes, or subsumes another, etc.).

A W3C Recommendation may be submitted to another standards body for adoption and formal approval by that body.

Possible next maturity levels. In this version of the Process Document, there are no maturity level changes after Recommendation; a technical report remains a Recommendation indefinitely.