Social Web Incubator Group Charter

The mission of the Social Web Incubator Group, part of the Incubator Activity, is to understand the systems and technologies that permit the description and identification of people, groups, organizations, and user-generated content in extensible and privacy-respecting ways.

The topics covered with regards to the emerging Social Web include, but are not limited to: accessibility, internationalization, portability, distributed architecture, privacy, trust, business metrics and practices, user experience, and contextual data. The scope includes issues such as widget platforms (such as OpenSocial, Facebook and W3C Widgets), as well as other user-facing technology, such as OpenID and OAuth, and mobile access to social networking services. The group is concerned also with the extensibility of Social Web descriptive schemas, so that the ability of Web users to describe themselves and their interests is not limited by the imagination of software engineers or Web site creators. Some of these technologies are independent projects, some were standardized at the IETF, W3C or elsewhere, and users of the Web shouldn't have to care. The purpose of this group is to provide a lightweight environment designed to foster and report on collaborations within the Social Web-related industry or outside which may, in due time affect the growth and usability of the Social Web, rather than to create new technology.

Our goal is to provide a forum through which collaborations relating to social web standards can be formed, and through which the results of practical standards-oriented collaborations can be reported and discussed. This is not a Working Group, although the members of the group are free to undertake work together, including and especially work outside the W3C, and to report it and discuss it within the group and the wider W3C.

Join the Social Web Incubator Group.

End date30 September 2010
ConfidentialityProceedings are public
Initial ChairsDan Appelquist (Vodafone), Dan Brickley (Vrije Universiteit), Harry Halpin (University of Edinburgh)
Initiating Members
Usual Meeting ScheduleTeleconferences: Weekly
Face-to-face: Once Annually


We will not be starting from scratch. We will invite participation from members of W3C groups such as the widgets, HTML5, Semantic Web, eGov, privacy, security and accessibility efforts. We will also invite the participation of and engage in dialog with members of the OpenID, OAuth, Portable Contacts and OpenSocial communities, as well as with others experienced in evaluating the accessibility, privacy and usability aspects of these technologies. For example, we propose that our work on privacy and trust involve the Policy Language Interest Group. Participation from the mobile web industry is critically important as we expect widget platforms and their APIs to be a key point of intersection between desktop and web widget platforms, and may devote significant time to discussion of this work. Other technology groups we hope to engage include microblogging, microformats, XMPP/Jabber, dataportability.org, and privacy groups. It is important to note that each of these groups has a distinctive style and approach to collaborative work and we should do our best to adapt to the style of groups that whose work we wish to explore. Facebook and similar social networking sites are welcome to use this forum to discuss complex interplay between data portability and user privacy concerns.

We will not create new technology. However, we will report on the landscapes of existing technologies and examine their compatibility and inter-relationships. We will also determine how they fulfill core goals of the W3C such as accessibility and internationalization, as well as make recommendations for future standardization work.

We actively seek collaboration and participation from the wider Web community, and so will have many Invited Experts and guests from non-W3C communities. This XG will not support anything for future W3C standardization that does not conforms to the W3C Royalty-Free (RF) Patent Policy. The chairs will strive to make sure that W3C membership is not a problem for independent, student and low-wage members, while noting that employees of larger companies are typically expected by W3C to encourage their employer to join W3C.


As a W3C Incubator group, our primary responsibility is to produce a final report summarizing our discussions with other groups, and propose a way forward for the W3C to participate productively in the wider Social Web ecosystem. In particular, we will survey the landscape for community-driven standards that in the future may be interested in W3C standardization, and how current W3C standards or Recommendation track work should take into account wider Social Web initiatives from outside the W3C.

Also, a number of other deliverables may be produced by the Incubator Group, although this work may also be subsumed into the final report.

Since some of this work may require separate teleconference time, task forces with separate teleconferences may be used in order to permit members of the group to focus their activity on specific achievable goals. The proposed deliverables outside of the final report are:

  1. A use-case and requirement document that describes a number of real-world use cases and determines if solutions can be built on top of existing standards, including standards outside the W3C, and help determine what other standards may be needed. Use-cases will guide the requirements needed for future work.
  2. A document that describes how diverse, ongoing work in this area (outside and within the W3C) currently relates to the Social Web's future. This description of existing, active and past work, both on an industry level and a technical level, will seek to explain how the W3C and community at large may leverage the best of breed and highlight possible weaknesses where further work or new work would be beneficial to the Social Web. This document may be divided into different documents if a single document becomes unwieldy. As the use cases document, this document will inform and guide recommendations made by the Incubator Group in its final report.


W3C Groups

Improving access to government through better use of the Web. Several of their topics are aligned with ours, including "Social Media."
Proposed solutions could take advantage of HTML 5 development.
Mobile Web Best Practices
Our work should take into account mobile social networking.
Policy Language Interest Group
Will jointly address issues of privacy and trust on social networks with our XG.
Web Applications Working Group
Widget development is an important growth area.
Web Security Context Working Group
Assure feedback on whatever security measures are proposed from the user-end.
Semantic Web Activity
To explore the usage of RDF and rules in portability and profile management.
Ubiquitous Web Applications Activity
Co-ordinate with their work on sharing contacts among mobile devices.

External Groups

The DataPortability group already has an activity in the same area.
Dublin Core Metadata Initiative
is a community developing RDF-based metadata, with a particular emphasis towards bibliographic information.
The Diso Project
We has begun mapping many social data formats to Portable Contacts.
The FOAF (Friend-of-a-Friend) Project
The first interoperable social networking effort, FOAF emphasizes decentralization and flexibility.
Identity Commons
A community of groups who have an interest in dialogue and collaboration towards open identity systems in the Internet.
XFN (XHTML Friends Network), hCard, and other microformats are very relevant to this work. Note that wiki-based collaboration may be more suitable for this group than telecons.
A decentralized identity standard with widespread usage.
OpenSocial API
Particularly via their open-source implementation Shindig, there has been promising work on distributed social gadgets.
SIOC (Semantically-Interlinked Online Communities)
A comprehensive interoperability effort for social media contributions and social objects.
Social Network Portability Group List
A list that helped jumpstart interest in the Social Web.
vCard and vCardDAV
An IETF working group dealing with issues around personal address books and access to those directories of information.


Members should be expected to introduce themselves and participate over the public list-serv. Members should attend teleconferences, and send regrets if unable to. While participation from all is welcome on the public list-serv, editors of XG deliverables will be W3C members or Invited Experts. The face-to-face meeting will be optional, but enjoyable.


This group primarily conducts its work on the public mailing list public-xg-socialweb@w3.org (archive) . The group's Member-only list (to be used for communication with Member-only W3C groups) is member-xg-socialweb@w3.org (archive)

The mailing lists will be a primary part of the communication both internally and externally. If needed, a wiki able to be accessible and editable by all can also be maintained, and a blog could be maintained in order to let others be easily informed about the progress of the group.

Information about the group (deliverables, participants, face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, etc.) is available from the 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.

Participants agree to offer patent licenses according to the W3C Royalty-Free licensing requirements described in Section 5 of the W3C Patent Policy for any portions of the XG Reports produced by this XG that are subsequently incorporated into a W3C Recommendation produced by a Working Group which is chartered to take the XG Report as an input. This licensing commitment may not be revoked but may be modified through the Exclusion process defined in Section 4 of the Patent Policy.

Participants in this Incubator Group wishing to exclude essential patent claims from the licensing commitment must join the Working Group created to work on the XG Report and follow the normal exclusion procedures defined by the Patent Policy. The W3C Team is responsible for notifying all Participants in this Incubator Group in the event that a new Working Group is proposed to develop a Recommendation that takes the XG Report as an input.

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

About this Charter

This charter for the 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.

Charter update history:

Dan Brickley (Vrije Universiteit) and Harry Halpin (University of Edinburgh) and Tim Anglade (AF83)

$Date: 2010/04/06 12:59:20 $