W3C Strategic Highlights
October 2018

This report was prepared for the October 2018 W3C Advisory Committee Meeting (W3C Member link). See the accompanying W3C Fact Sheet — October 2018. For the previous edition, see the May 2018 W3C Strategic Highlights. For future editions of this report, please consult the latest version.

A Chinese translation is available.


Pipeline of innovation for the Web [Lightbulb design
          credit: Freepik]

This report highlights work of consolidation, optimization and enhancement of the existing landscape, as well as innovation, incubation, and research for the growth and strength of the Web.

W3C is working on an exciting pipeline of innovations to enable the Web to scale to meet the new challenges and opportunities. The last year has brought to us an unprecedented level of innovation which is causing us to explore many new exciting topics:

  1. Recently chartered work such as the Immersive Web Working Group
  2. Recent and planned W3C workshops (including on Digital Publication Layout and Presentation (from Manga to Magazines); Permissions and User Consent)
  3. Exciting work that we're seeing taking place in W3C community groups that is on our horizon, including WebGPU Graphics, Interledger protocol, Distributed Identities, Advertising, Web of Things, Blockchain, Packaging, the future of WebApps, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, etc.

Continued progress in many areas demonstrates the vitality of the W3C and the Web community. We see the maturation and further development of an incredible number of new technologies coming to the Web.

Collaboration with the WHATWG. Since December 2017, W3C and WHATWG have been exploring effective partnership mechanisms for HTML and DOM. In the recent extension of the Web Platform Working Group, we noted that while the WHATWG and the W3C continue negotiations to provide a single authoritative specification for HTML and DOM, no joint work with the WHATWG would advance on the W3C Recommendation track; we believe that having two distinct HTML and DOM specs claiming to be normative is generally harmful for the community.

  1. We see positive elements in the WHATWG changes, in particular adoption of a patent policy, of a code of conduct and the attribution license CC-BY. We've been in conversation with WHATWG to determine how we can work together in a way that maintains the enduring social values of the W3C including giving all stakeholders and the nearly 500 W3C members seats at the decision table.
  2. Since December, we have had several direct meetings with the WHATWG Steering Group; tone has been positive although progress continues to be slow.
  3. W3C remains committed to ensuring that HTML development continues to take into account the needs of the global community, and continues to improve in areas such as accessibility, internationalization and privacy while providing greater interoperability, performance and security.

Future Web Standards

W3C has a variety of mechanisms for listening to what the community thinks could become good future Web standards. These include discussions with the Membership, discussions with other standards bodies, the activities of thousands of participants in over 300 community groups, and W3C Workshops. There are lots of good ideas. The W3C strategy team has been identifying promising topics and invites public participation.

strategy funnel

Recent and under consideration Workshops include:

The Strategy Funnel documents the staff's exploration of potential new work at various phases: Exploration and Investigation, Incubation and Evaluation, and eventually to the chartering of a new standards group. The Funnel view is a GitHub Project where new area are issues represented by “cards” which move through the columns, usually from left to right. Most cards start in Exploration and move towards Chartering, or move out of the funnel.

Public input is welcome at any stage but particularly once Incubation has begun. This helps W3C identify work that is sufficiently incubated to warrant standardization, to review the ecosystem around the work and indicate interest in participating in its standardization, and then to draft a charter that reflects an appropriate scope. Ongoing feedback can speed up the overall standardization process.

Since the previous highlights document, W3C has chartered a number of groups:

Meeting Industry Needs

Web Payments

several implementations of the Web Payments specs

All Web Payments specifications

W3C's payments standards aim to streamline the Web checkout experience and increase payment security.

Reports of early experiments from Shopify and J.Crew suggest that the new standards can significantly speed up checkout. Users store and reuse information to complete online transactions —on mobile, desktop, and other devices— more quickly and accurately.

Deployment Status of Payments Standards

Chrome, Edge, Safari, and Samsung Internet Browser now ship with support for the Payment Request API to enable streamlined checkout. Mozilla anticipates shipping support in Firefox Nightly by the end of 2018. Stripe, Braintree, Shopify, WePay, Payone, Paysafe, Bluesnap and other merchant services providers have begun to support the API in libraries for their customers.

The Web Payments Working Group has also published Payment Handler API and Payment Method Manifest to foster payment innovation on the Web. These specifications make it possible for users to make payments via third party Web-based "payment handlers," an avenue for payment method and security innovation. Chrome (as of release 68) supports the Payment Handler API.

Enhancements to Card Payment Security

In collaboration with EMVCo, work continues in two task forces to increase card payment security. The task forces are developing:

Liaisons; new W3C Members

Digital Publishing

publishing on the web and on a table

All Digital Publishing Standards and Drafts, Publication status page

The Web is the universal publishing platform. Publishing is increasingly impacted by the Web, and the Web increasingly impacts Publishing.

Topic of particular interest to Publishing@W3C include typography and layout, accessibility, usability, portability, distribution, archiving, offline access, print on demand, and reliable cross referencing.

Notable progress in this space:

Media and Entertainment

Word bubbles for entertainment needs

All Media specifications

The Media and Entertainment Interest Group serves as steering committee for media-related features that create immersive experiences on the Web and maintains the Media and Entertainment Road-map. Current goals are to:

Web & Telecommunications

The Web is the Open Platform for Mobile. Telecommunication service providers and network equipment providers have long been critical actors in the deployment of Web technologies. As the Web platform matures, it brings richer and richer capabilities to extend existing services to new users and devices, and propose new and innovative services. The July 2018 edition of the Roadmap of Web Applications on Mobile explores the technologies developed in W3C that increase the capabilities of Web applications in mobile contexts.

Real-Time Communications (WebRTC)

WebRTC logo

All Real-Time Communications specifications

WebRTC has reshaped the whole communication landscape by making any connected device a potential communication end-point, bringing audio and video communications anywhere, on any network, vastly expanding the ability of operators to reach their customers. WebRTC 1.0 reached Candidate Recommendation last November, indicating the stability of this specification which now serves as a corner-stone of many online communication and collaboration services.

The WebRTC Working Group aims to bring WebRTC 1.0 to Recommendation by the end of 2019, while it continues to evaluate what the next generation on WebRTC should be.


The planned deployment of 5G, the fifth generation networks, in the upcoming few years is creating a set of challenges and opportunities for the Web Platform to adjust to these new network capabilities: higher bandwidth, lower latency and better coverage than today's networks – a need the W3C hopes to address under a Web5G plan:

The May 2018 Web5G workshop report proposes the creation of a task force of participants to develop compelling business and technical reasons, as well as incentives to drive a close collaboration among the W3C, 5G standard organizations (e.g. 3GPP), browser vendors, developers, equipment vendors and network operators.


illustration for W3C and Automotive

All Automotive specifications

The W3C Automotive Working Group is delivering a service specification to expose vehicle signals (engine temperature, fuel/charge level, range, tire pressure, speed, etc.), with a goal to create a rich application ecosystem for vehicles and other deviced allowed to connect to the vehicle.

While the Vehicle Information Service Specification (VISS) is a Candidate Recommendation, it is being converged with a submission from Volkswagen to the W3C (ViWi), for a second, more robust means of accessing vehicle signals information and the same paradigm for other automotive needs including location based services, media, notifications and caching content.

The Automotive and Web Platform Business Group acts as an incubator for prospective standards work, and has recently focused on a W3C automotive big data task force. Access to the wealth of information that W3C's auto signals standard exposes is of interest to regulators, urban planners, insurance companies, auto manufacturers, fleet managers and owners, service providers and others. In addition to components needed for data sampline and edge computing, capturing user and owner consent, information collection methods and handling of data are in scope.

Web of Things

illustration of wot

All Web of Things specifications

The potential of the Internet of Things is held back through fragmentation and a lack of interoperability. W3C's Web of Things work is designed to bridge disparate technology stacks to allow devices to work together and achieve scale.

Primarily, it provides mechanisms, using JSON-LD, to formally describe IoT interfaces, to allow IoT devices and services to communicate with each other and across multiple networking protocols. Secondarily, it provides a standardized way to define and program IoT behavior. W3C is focusing on standards for the interface between applications and application platforms, as well as the standards needed to enable open marketplaces on the scale of the Web. By contrast, OCF, oneM2M, Bluetooth, and OPC, are focused on standards for particular IoT platforms.

The Web of Things Working Group advances specifications around descriptions, declarative protocol binding templates, scripting APIs and security guidelines, and expecting to produce Candidate Recommendations in early 2019.

The Web of Things Interest Group is collaborating with schema.org and there are plans for vocabulary development in the W3C Web of Things Community Group. The Web of Things is strongly dependent on W3C's Web of Data.

Strengthening the Core of the Web


All specifications of the Web Platform Working Group HTML logo

The Web Platform Working Group continues the development of the HTML language and provides specifications that enable improved client-side application development on the Web. The Push API and the Web App Manifest are moving to the Candidate Recommendation stage. IndexedDB API has started its version 3.0 with a few new features supported, e.g., an Observer API. The other WebApps specs, especially File API, Intersection Observer, and the Editing APIs are also making notable progress.

In the recent extension of the Web Platform Working Group, we noted that while the WHATWG and the W3C continue negotiations to provide a single authoritative specification for HTML and DOM, no joint work with the WHATWG would advance on the W3C Recommendation track; we believe that having two distinct HTML and DOM specs claiming to be normative is generally harmful for the community.


All CSS specifications image demonstrating discretionary ligatures

The CSS Working Group gathers requirements from two large groups of CSS users: the publishing industry and application developers. Within W3C, those groups are exemplified by the Publishing groups and the Web Platform Working Group. The former requires things like better pagination support and advanced font handling, the latter needs intelligent (and fast!) scrolling and animations.

What we know as CSS is actually a collection of almost a hundred specifications, referred to as ‘modules’. The group published 13 documents in August (Working Drafts, Candidate Recommendations), a significant increase due to the recent automation and streamlining of the transition request process, and facilitating transition requests with the Director.

In this period, the CSS Working Group published 3 recommendations:

  1. CSS UI Module level 3
  2. CSS Color Module level 3
  3. CSS Fonts Module level 3

CSS Fonts Module level 3, which specifies how to link and select a font with CSS (thus completing our Fonts story following publication of the WOFF new format earlier this year). Read more in the W3C Blog post on CSS Fonts 3.


graph showing Web Font usage data, top 100,000 websites, 1998-2018

WOFF 1.0 and WOFF 2.0, published as a Recommendation last winter, are widely implemented W3C Recommendations. However, for fonts with many glyphs (such as are typically used for Chinese and Japanese, for example), even with the compression provided by WOFF, download sizes are still large. Static subsetting runs the risk of missing glyphs, or some text being rendered in a fallback font.

Early experiments have demonstrated the feasibility of a font enrichment API, where a server delivers a font with minimal glyph repertoire and the client can query the full repertoire and request additional subsets on-the-fly. The API takes care of progressively enriching the downloaded font, without requiring cumbersome CSS manipulations or multiple, separate font files. This API could be implemented as a script library, or as a native browser API. In other experiments, the Brotli compression used in WOFF 2 was extended to support shared dictionaries and patch update. This avoids the need for a new API or a new transport protocol. It still requires the browser to implement dynamic patching and refresh of in-use font resources. Read more in the advance notice for a revised Fonts Working Group charter, and the W3C Blog post on CSS Fonts 3.


SVG logo

All SVG specifications

SVG is an important and widely-used part of the Open Web Platform. The SVG Working Group focuses on aligning the SVG 2.0 specification with browser implementations, having split the specification into a currently-implemented 2.0 and a forward-looking 2.1.


The Web Audio API enables synthesizing audio in the browser. Audio operations are performed with audio nodes, which are linked together to form a modular audio routing graph. Multiple sources — with different types of channel layout — are supported. This modular design provides the flexibility to create complex audio functions with dynamic effects.

The first version of Web Audio API, implemented in all modern browsers, recently reached Candidate Recommendation; work has started on the next version.


Performance report example

Web Performance

All Web Performance specifications

The mission of the Web Performance Working Group is to provide methods to observe and improve aspects of application performance of user agent features and APIs. The groups continues to make progress with its deliverables with a revised charter that encourages the incubation of new Web Performance APIs, and emphasizes the importance of testing, security review, privacy consideration. The group has added Reporting, Network Error Logging, Device Memory to its deliverables.


All WebAssembly specifications

WebAssembly improves Web performance and power by being a virtual machine and execution environment enabling loaded pages to run native (compiled) code. It is deployed in Firefox, Edge, Safari and Chrome.

WebAssembly enables near-native performance, optimized load time, and perhaps most importantly, a compilation target for existing code bases. While it has a small number of native types, much of the performance increase relative to Javascript derives from its use of consistent typing. WebAssembly leverages decades of optimization for compiled languages and the byte code is optimized for compactness and streaming (the web page starts executing while the rest of the code downloads). It is currently mostly used for C++, Rust and Kotlin but compilers are being developed for other languages. Network and API access all occurs through accompanying Javascript libraries -- the security model is identical to that of Javascript.

The work is divided between the Community Group (1041 members) and the Working Group (43 members). Feature prioritization and technology development occurs in the CG; test production, community review and Recommendation Track documents are developed in the WG.

Features in the pipeline:

  • SIMD (single instruction, multiple data): make loops like forEach execute in parallel.
  • Threads
  • Exceptions
  • JS-like:
    • access to DOM
    • library module interface like ES6
  • Shared memory (access to SharedArrayBuffer)


Browser testing plays a critical role in the growth of the Web by:

Browser Testing and Tools

comics illustration of a man wearing a helmet and

There is now a standard way to do Web testing, a way to automate interaction with a browser across different browsers and engines. WebDriver was recently published as a W3C Recommendation. It acts as a remote control interface that enables introspection and control of user agents. It provides a platform- and language-neutral wire protocol as a way for out-of-process programs to remotely instruct the behavior of Web, and emulates the action sof a real person using the browser.

WebDriver is widely used day-to-day by Web developers around the world to ensure their Web applications work across multiple browsers. It is also used for cross-browser testing by browser vendors as part of the web-platform-tests effort, in order to catch and eliminate browser incompatibilities before they ship. Read more in the W3C Blog post.

WebPlatform Tests

Since 2014 W3C began work on a coordinated open-source effort to build a cross-browser test suite for the Web Platform: WebPlatform Tests, which W3C, WHATWG, and all major browsers have adopted. Interest from China has recently increased, with more questions on how to generate tests for Chinese browsers.

Last May WPT moved to its own GitHub repository to facilitate the management of the project and the workload the project generates. With 11K pull requests closed, 32K commits and 1.5K forks as of September 2018, this project is very active.

Web of Data

Context diagram from DWBP doc

All Data specifications

Data is increasingly important for all organizations, especially with the rise of IoT and Big Data. W3C has an extensive suite of standards relating to data that were developed over two decades of experience. These include core standards for RDF, the Semantic Web and Linked Data.

The JSON-LD Working Group has recently started to work on updating the JSON-LD specification which covers a JSON based serialization of RDF. This is assisting the W3C Work on the Web of Things which is seeking to use JSON-LD to describe things as objects with properties, actions and events, independently of the underlying protocols.

A W3C Workshop is being planned for early 2019, on emerging standardization opportunities, e.g. query languages for graph databases and improvements for handling link annotations (property graphs), different forms of reasoning that are suited to incomplete, uncertain and inconsistent knowledge, support for enterprise knowledge graphs, AI and Machine Learning, approaches for transforming data between different vocabularies with overlapping semantics, signed Linked Data Graphs, and work on improving W3C's role in respect to hosting work vocabularies and ontologies.

Web for All

Security, Privacy, Identity

All Security specifications, all Privacy specifications

Web Security is becoming a reality as Web Application Security work is active, the passwordless Web is coming (read in the press how service providers are rolling out strong cryptographic security: Security Boulevard, eWeek, Dark Reading), W3C Workshops focus on how to address the privacy, security and usability challenges presented by powerful hardware sensors, device capabilities, and APIs (September Permissions and User Consent Workshop), and how strong identity and strong authentication should work on the Web (December Strong Authentication & Identity Workshop).

Simpler and Stronger Authentication on the Web

WebAuthn logo

Webkit has announced implementation of Web Authentication (WebAuthn), joining Firefox, Chrome and Edge. While the specification has been a W3C Candidate Recommendation since April and is nearing publication as a Proposed Recommendation, interoperability testing is in progress, and key coordinator FIDO Alliance just announced FIDO2 Certified Solutions.

WebAuthn is an open standard Web API to give native authentication technology built into native platforms, browsers, operating systems (including mobile) and hardware, offering protection against hacking, credential theft, phishing attacks, thus aiming to end the era of passwords as a security construct.

Revamped security review effort

Horizontal reviews for privacy and security are being done in two different ways, and more participants from security and/or privacy experts would be helpful:

Web Application Security

The Web Application Security Working Group is moving to Proposed Recommendation Mixed Content, Secure Contexts, Upgrade Insecure Requests. There are many other active specifications aiming to improve the security of the web, including CSP3, Credential Management, Permissions API, Referrer Policy, Confinement with Origin Web Labels, and Clear Site Data.

Tracking Protection

W3C's Tracking Preference Expression (DNT), a Candidate Recommendation, will be published as an informative Note, with addenda reflecting additional work by the Tracking Protection Working Group, thus concluding its work.

Internationalization (i18n)

indic script example

All Internationalization specifications, educational articles related to Internationalization, spec developers checklist

To live up to the "World Wide" portion of its name, and for the Web to truly work for stakeholders all around the world, there must be a collaboration of language experts, Web site designers, developers, and vendors who are active in moving the Web forward. To ensure a rapid response to the growth of the Web, the W3C wants to marshal the resources of organizations and experts who care about these problems and enlist their help in strengthening internationalization support for the Web.

The W3C Internationalization Initiative was set up last July to supplement the core funding received from W3C Member fees so as to increase in-house resources dedicated to accelerating progress in making the World Wide Web "worldwide" by gathering user requirements, supporting developers, and education & outreach. In the next year, we have set the following goals:

For an overview of current projects see the i18n radar. W3C's Internationalization efforts progressed on a number of fronts recently:

The Web needs your help

Photo: a boy Tibetan monk, reading a book with Tibetan letters

W3C's Internationalization Initiative a sponsorship program is designed to provide participants and funding to address three main aspects of the internationalization continuum:

Enablement Development Education
Stake­hold­ers Governments, Publishers, User communities,… W3C Working Groups, Application developers,… Content authors & developers, localizers,…
Typ­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties Gap analysis & prioritization
Documenting requirements
Guidelines & checklists
Architectural solutions
Educational resources
Checker tools

Web Accessibility

logo of the Web Accessibility Initiative

All Accessibility specifications, WAI resources

W3C "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)  2.1", which became a W3C Recommendation in June, has been adopted for web content, electronic documents, and non-web software, such as native mobile applications by the three official European Standards Organizations, CEN, CENELEC, and ETSI who published an updated version of EN 301 549 “Accessibility requirements for ICT products and services”. W3C staff involvement fosters continued harmonization of formal and informal European standards with the international technical guidance from W3C.

A billion people in the world have disabilities—one out of every seven—according to the World Report on Disabilities. Helping build accessibility-supporting specifications, guidelines, evaluation and educational materials helps ensure that your own organization is improving access to the Web for people with disabilities.

Learn why accessibility is essential for people with disabilities and useful for all: watch the Video Introduction to Web Accessibility and W3C Standards (4 minutes).

Accessibility activities support W3C’s Web for All mission. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) continues to help ensure a cohesive package of coordinated accessibility activities, distributed throughout the groups and areas of W3C. Notable progress include:

Accessibility reviewers for W3C specs are always welcome in the APA WG, and the RQTF is looking for industry and user community researchers.

Outreach to the world

W3C Developer Relations

To foster the excellent feedback loop between Web Standards development and Web developers, and to grow participation from that diverse community, the W3C team has revived its Developer Relations activities with a three-pronged approach:


MDN logo

MDN Web Docs is the cross-browser Web standards documentation that helps Web developers build the open Web.

W3C Staff member Dominique Hazaël-Massieux has joined the MDN Product Advisory Board (PAB). This opens many opportunities:

W3C Training

w3cx logo

In partnership with EdX, W3C started a MOOC training program in June 2015: W3Cx. We count nearly 770K students from all over the world.

W3Cx launched a "Front-End Web Developer" (FEWD) professional certificate program (in April 2017), a program which consists of a suite of five W3Cx courses on the three foundational languages that power the Web: HTML5, CSS and JavaScript.

W3C Liaisons

handshake and icons representing liaisons

Liaisons and coordination with numerous organizations and SDOs is crucial for W3C to:

The three de-jure European Standards Organizations, CEN, CENELEC, and ETSI have adopted W3C "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)  2.1" in the recently updated version of EN 301 549 “Accessibility requirements for ICT products and services”. W3C staff involvement fosters continued harmonization of formal and informal European standards with the international technical guidance from W3C.