Federated Social Web Incubator Group Charter

The mission of the Federated Social Web Incubator Group, part of the Incubator Activity, is to provide a set of community-driven specifications and a test-case suite for a federated social web.

Join the Federated Social Web Incubator Group.

End date 15 December 2011
Confidentiality Proceedings are public
Initial Chairs Evan Prodromou (Status.Net) Harry Halpin (W3C/University of Edinburgh)
Initiating Members
Usual Meeting Schedule Teleconferences: Monthly
Face-to-face: Once Annually


As our social interactions become the central point of our communication using the Web, there is an increasing need for a federated social web that any site, application, and device can easily join and share. In order for there to be massive uptake, the federated social web should offer a compelling experience for users. Furthermore, users would like to have the ability for these applications to respect the privacy of their social data in easy-to-understand and uniform ways.

The Federated Social Web Group's deliverables will primarily be a set of user stories with associated test-cases that build the core functionality of a federated social web, and the overall technical architecture for a federated social web should be investigated. One input for this architecture will be OStatus, which is an architecture combining Pubsubhubbub, WebFinger, ActivityStreams, and PortableContacts. However, many different kinds of architectures will also be used as inputs into the discussion, such as SMOB (RDFa and SPARQL) and XMPP-based architectures. The Federated Social Web Incubator Group will also strive to help mature the specifications that allow web developers to implement federated social web capabilities. These deliverables will apply to both social web-sites ran from the server-side but hopefully also to client-side environments such as desktop and mobile browsers.

Success Criteria

Any architecture (like OStatus) or specification should be clarified enough to be easily implemented while allowing interoperability without taking away from innovation.

Each test-case will hopefully have three independent implementations and a clearly defined user story that can be understood by ordinary users. A test harness should be designed that lets the test-cases be ran as much as possible in a semi-automated fashion.


The Federated Social Web Incubator Group will work on the following:

  1. An interoperable number of user stories and associated test-cases for a federated social web, with a focus on a compelling user experience. A strawman input document is available.
  2. The requirements and design of a meta-model - on the semantic level - and design patterns - on the protocol level - in order to share status updates on the Web. These may be implemented by a number of different architectures, and these architectures will be compared.
  3. OStatus is one design pattern for the Federated Social Web. OStatus lets people on different social networks follow each other. It applies a group of related protocols (PubSubHubbub, ActivityStreams, Salmon, Portable Contacts, and Webfinger), and so is a minimal specification for distributed status updates, and many social applications can be modelled as status updates.

Other documents may be worked on as necessary, such as:

Dependencies and Liaisons

W3C Groups

Web Applications Working Group
This Working Group develops specifications for webapps, including standard APIs for client-side development, and a packaging format for installable webapps.
HTML Working Group
This Working Group will maintain and produce incremental revisions to the HTML specification. There may be desire to have client-side browsers as part of the federated social web.
Device APIs and Policy Working Group
This Working Group create client-side APIs that enable the development of Web Applications and Web Widgets that interact with devices services. Access to personal contact data and possibly privacy work through DAP APIs should be co-ordinated with the Federated Social Web Incubator Group.

External Groups

ActivityStreams is an evolving format for syndicating social activities around the web.
OpenID Foundation
The OpenID Foundation is the group responsible for OpenID-related standardization. Although work like OpenID Connect is a moving target, the test-cases and specification should be compatible with OpenID.
OStatus is an architecture combining Pubsubhubbub, WebFinger, ActivityStreams, and PortableContacts.
Portable Contacts
The goal of Portable Contacts is to make it easier for developers to give their users a secure way to access the address books and friends lists they have built up all over the web.
Pubsubhubbub (PUSH) is a server-to-server publish/subscribe protocol as an extension to Atom and RSS. Servers compliant with PubSubHubbub can get near-instant notifications when a feed they're interested in is updated.
Salmon Protocol
As updates and content flow in real time around the Web, conversations around the content are becoming increasingly fragmented into individual silos. Salmon aims to define a standard protocol for comments and annotations to swim upstream to original update sources -- and spawn more commentary in a virtuous cycle.
SMOB (Semantic MicroBlogging) is a framework that enables an open, distributed and semantic microblogging experience based on Semantic Web and Linked Data technologies.
WebFinger is about making email addresses more valuable, by letting people attach public metadata to them.


To be successful, the Incubator Group is expected to have 10 or more active participants for its duration.

While open to all, the group especially welcomes as Federated Social Web Group members those involved in an implementation that implements the SWAT test-cases.

As this Incubator Group will offer resources to those involved in the Federated Social Web effort, it will be completely open and will transition into the Community Group process when that option is available.


Teleconferences will be held at least once a month to track the progress of SWAT. In general, teleconferences will focus on discussion of particular user stories of test-cases.

This group will conduct all of its work on the public mailing list (the public is invited to post messages to this list) public-xg-federatedsocialweb@w3.org (archive) . The group's Member-only list is member-xg-federatedsocialweb@w3.org (archive)

Information about the group (deliverables, participants, face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, etc.) is available from the Federated Social Web Incubator Group home page.

Decision Policy

As explained in the Process Document (section 3.3), this group will seek to make decisions when there is consensus. When the Chair puts a question and observes dissent, after due consideration of different opinions, the Chair should record a decision (possibly after a formal vote) and any objections, and move on.

Patent Policy

This Incubator Group provides an opportunity to share perspectives on the topic addressed by this charter. W3C reminds Incubator Group participants of their obligation to comply with patent disclosure obligations as set out in Section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy. While the Incubator Group does not produce Recommendation-track documents, when Incubator Group participants review Recommendation-track specifications from Working Groups, the patent disclosure obligations do apply.

Incubator Groups have as a goal to produce work that can be implemented on a Royalty Free basis, as defined in the W3C Patent Policy.

For more information about disclosure obligations for this group, please see the W3C Patent Policy Implementation.

About this Charter

This charter for the Federated Social Web Incubator Group has been created according to the Incubator Group Procedures documentation. In the event of a conflict between this document or the provisions of any charter and the W3C Process, the W3C Process shall take precedence.

Harry Halpin (W3C/University of Edinburgh)

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