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W3C Social Activity Proposal - Standardizing the Social Web

Executive Summary

This is a proposal to create a W3C Social Activity (slogan: Standardizing the Social Web). This is a new activity, although it will be related to the Data Activity and ongoing Security Activity.

For definitions of terms such as "social" and "activity", please see the W3C Social XG report A Standards-based, Open and Privacy-aware Social Web.

The focus of the Social Activity is on making "social" a first-class citizen of the Open Web Platform by enabling standardized protocols, APIs, and an architecture for standardized communication among Socal Web applications. These technologies are crucial for both federated social networking and the success of social business between and within the enterprise.

A Social Web Working Group is committed to the technical standardization work of the following deliverables:

The Social Interest Group focuses on messaging and co-ordination in the larger space. This work will include a use-case document, including "social business" enterprise use-cases. Their work may include the following Interest Group Note deliverables:

A significant number of existing W3C members from industry have expressed interest in this work, ranging from large enterprises to start-ups as well as non-profit and academic institutions. Interest includes existing Community Groups such as the Federated Social Web Community Group and Social Business Community Group and these groups may continue to provide important input to the new Working Group and Interest Group in the Social Activity.

The Social Activity continues liaison work with the ActivityStream community, the OpenSocial Foundation, IETF, Microformats and IndieWeb community, and well as possibly OpenID Foundation and other communities.

Acceptance of this proposal will result in a Social Activity through 30th December 2016.

This Activity Proposal follows section 5 of the Process Document.

Context & Vision

Interoperability around social should be standardized in order to allow communication between heterogeneous Web applications that feature explicitly social features such as status updates and user profiles. Currently, APIs and protocols in this space do not allow easy transfer of social data between existing systems, as is required by many "social business" systems for both business-to-business and business-to-customer relationships. Second, the lack of a standard API prevents Web application developers from embedding social functionality from third-party sites into their Web applications easily. Lastly, many users and organizations wish to have autonomous control over their own social data while sharing it in a decentralized manner, which requires a Web-based protocol for federation.

The creation of a Social Activity is a goal of many members of W3C. The Future of Social Networking Workshop was held in 2009 and attracted significant mobile and academic interest, and led to the creation of the Social Web Incubator that produced Towards a Standards-based, Open, and Privacy-Aware Social Web. Outcomes of this report included the more open Community Group process, since much social web work was happening outside W3C, including grass-roots efforts such as ActivityStreams and PortableContacts. This also led to further outreach, with the W3C sponsoring and helping organize the grass-roots Federated Social Web conference. While there was still insufficient critical mass of W3C members interested in social, the W3C "Headlights" Social Taskforce was started to discuss the topic with members and created a "block-diagram" of the space.

More and more W3C members are embracing the concept of social standards, thanks to the work of the Social Business Community Group, in particular the 2011 Social Business Jam and the 2012 CTO Guide to Social Business. The Social Standards: The Future of Business workshop (August 7-8th, sponsored by IBM and the Open Mobile Alliance) developed the standards and ideas in this activity statement, see the Final Report of the workshop for more details. In particular, after the workshop, the OpenSocial Foundation joined the W3C, and submitted (with other groups) the OpenSocial Web Activity Streams and Embedded Experience API as a Member Submission.


The scope of the activity encompasses social technologies and standards at the W3C. Two new groups are being concretely proposed, with a Working Group focusing on technical standardization and an Interest Group focusing on messaging and co-ordination. A number of Community Groups may relate their work to the Social Web Activity. This activity proposal describes only groups with proposed charters at the present moment.

Proposed New Groups & Team Effort

Two new working groups are proposed that the Team believes deserve the highest priority within the Social Web Activity and that represent the best use of available W3C resources.

Social Web Working Group

The mission of the Social Web Working Group is to define the techical protocols and APIs to facilitate access to social functionality as part of the Open Web Platform. The Social Web Working Group will create Recommendation Track deliverables that standardize a common JSON-based syntax for social data, a client-side API, and a Web protocol for federating social information such as status updates.

Social Interest Group

The mission of the Social Interest Group is to co-ordinate messaging around social at the W3C and to formulate a broad strategy to enable social business and federation. It will harvest use-cases and review specifications produced by technical working groups in the light of those use-cases. It is not chartered to produce Recommendation Track deliverables but may produce Interest Group Notes as needed.

These groups may also be supported by research and the Data Activity's plan on vocabularies.

Resource Statement

The overall resource commitment for this Activity will be of 0.3 FTE as a result of this proposal.

Intellectual Property

The Social Web Activity provides an opportunity to share perspectives on the topic addressed by this charter. W3C reminds all participants of their obligation to comply with patent disclosure obligations as set out in Section 6 of the W3C Patent Policy.


The proposed duration of the Activity is through 31 December 2016.

Overview of the Activity Structure

Table of links to groups, Chairs, Team Contacts and charters for the Social Web Activity
Group Chair Charter Team Contact FTE Charter
Social Web Working Group (Proposed) Tantek Çelik (Mozilla), Evan Prodromou (E14N), and Arnaud Le Hors (IBM) Social Web Working Group Charter Harry Halpin 0.2 Proposed until 31 June 2016
Social Interest Group (Proposed) Mark Crawford (SAP) Social Interest Group Charter Harry Halpin 0.1 Proposed until 31 December 2016

Harry Halpin, <>, Social Web Activity Lead