W3CDocument Formats Domain

In January 2003, the Document Formats Domain was reorganized and the Activities presented below were moved to the Architecture and Interaction domains. Please refer to those domains to get the latest information.

This page is no longer updated. It is provided as historical background.

The Document Formats Domain

Amaya | Graphics | HTML | Internationalization | Math | Style Sheets
History | Team |

Document Formats: improving the technology that allows Web users to effectively perceive and express information

"Web information will grow immensely in variety, and be used by a much greater diversity of people than today. What is imperative is that simplicity and interoperability continue to be of prime importance." — Vincent Quint, Document Formats Domain Leader


The Document Formats Domain seeks to improve user/computer communications on the Web. In particular, the Domain is developing formats and languages that will present information to users with more accuracy and a higher level of control.

Domain Activities

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

Hypertext Markup Language -- known as HTML -- is the lingua franca for publishing on the Web. Following the success of W3C's HTML 3.2 and HTML 4.0, the Consortium is designing the next generation of the markup language. The new HTML, called XHTML, is re-cast in XML and is being designed so that it can be used in combination with other XML applications.

The HTML Activity also includes work on the next generation of forms. This work started as a subgroup of the HTML working group but has now been spun off into an independent working group (XForms). The key idea is to separate the user interface and presentation from the data model and logic, allowing the same form to be used on a wide variety of devices such as voice browsers, handhelds, desktops and even paper. XForms brings the benefits of XML to Web forms, transferring form data as XML. XForms aims to reduce the need for scripting, and to make it easier to achieve the desired layout of form fields without having to resort to using nested tables etc.

Style Sheets

Style sheets offer precise control over the presentation of Web pages. Not only can Web designers specify the visual effects they want, but also aural style sheets give control over voice, pitch and other aspects of how the text will sound when rendered into speech. After the publication of two recommendations, CSS1and CSS2, W3C continues to evolve the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) language to provide even richer stylistic control, while emphasizing the importance of the thorough implementation of CSS on browsers.

For more complex publishing tasks, such as automatically producing a table of contents, and for converting documents written in XML into HTML for publication, W3C is developing the Extensible Style Sheets Language (XSL), which builds upon experience in CSS and DSSSL.


Communicating mathematical and other technical notation is a challenging and important task. The demand is high for effective means of electronic scientific communication. To address the needs of the scientific community, W3C has developed a core specification for embedding mathematical expressions in HTML and XML documents. In April 1998, W3C published a Recommendation entitled Mathematical Markup Language, or MathML, which provides a way of encoding both mathematical content and visual presentation for mathematics at all levels, from elementary school to scientific research. This specification was further developed to produce MathML 2.0, which is the latest Recommendation for this language.


Graphics are the most visible part of the modern Web and arguably one of the primary reasons for it popularity and explosive growth. Successful use of graphics on the Web depends on interoperability across platforms, output resolutions, color spaces, and software products.

In October 1996, W3C issued a Recommendation for Portable Network Graphics (PNG), a format for bitmapped images. Interoperable methods of integrating CGM vector graphics have then been developed and constitute the WebCGM Profile Recommendation. W3C is now developing Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), an open vector graphics format written in XML, and designed to work across platforms, output resolutions, color spaces, and a range of available bandwidths. SVG 1.0 became a W3C Recommendation in September 2001.


The Web was originally developed to enable people throughout the world to communicate with one another. Having a single system that can deal with all languages and cultures has many advantages: when the same protocols are used everywhere, the same software can likewise be used.

W3C has successfully stressed the role of Unicode as the basis for identifying characters in documents. Work is continuing on providing markup and style components for international needs.

Open Source Code


Amaya is a highly advanced and powerful Web client which acts as both a browser and an authoring tool. It has been designed with the primary purpose of being a testbed for experimenting with, testing and demonstrating new specifications and extensions of Web protocols and formats.

Before Amaya, Arena has been developed by W3C as a testbed for HTML and CSS.

About the Document Formats Team

Currently twelve members strong, W3C's Document Formats team brings together some of today's most respected innovators in Web design tools. Its representatives have considerable knowledge in markup languages, style sheets, graphics, fonts, and internationalization, among other areas. The team is led by Vincent Quint, whose areas of expertise include electronic documents, document models, hypertext, and document production systems. The team also solicits external advice from leading experts in the field.

News, Events, and History

Vincent Quint, Document Formats Domain Leader
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