Continued Host (Partner) relationship

A key portion of the W3C legal entity proposal is a continued partnership with the current W3C Hosts.  Since it is an important request that W3C is making of the Hosts, it is important to delineate the reasons for this request.  There is a feeling among W3M that without this continued relationship that the W3C legal entity proposal is considerably weaker.

In this document we call the new relationship Partner, rather than Host (which describes the current relationship).

Nature of partnership

As indicated in legal entity doc, in the new structure, W3C has full authority, responsibility, and liability for the successful continuation of W3C.  The Hosts transition into Partners, or cease a relationship with W3C.  As Partners, they play a supporting role, possibly employing some staff, participating in research projects, and supporting a global footprint.

The Partners will support the mission of the W3C and support members in their geography to the extent established in their Partnership agreement. Partnership agreements are recommended by W3C with oversight and approval from the new Board and are confirmed or entered into on behalf of the W3C annually.

Board Representation.

Hosts as Partners are entitled to a seat on the Board. The selection of their appointee to their seat is at their discretion.

Staff continuity

At the moment, staff are employed by the Hosts. The long-term outcome is that staff are directly employed by the consortium, by a contract agency, or by a Partner.

We don’t believe that it is fair for the staff that continue in W3C to force them to leave their employers.  This is especially true outside the US, since the staff currently has in-country employers, and if they are forced to become contractors to a US based organization, that would cause significant impact in benefits.  Certain MIT staff also have good reasons to want to continue employment at MIT.  An example could be continuity of research contracts (see below).

W3C expects that the staff continuity issue will attenuate over time.  First, it is anticipated that new W3C staff should be hired by W3C – not by the Partners.  So the employment grandfathering applies only to current staff.  Additionally, W3C is exploring registering as an employer in France, Japan, and China – so it might be possible to provide local benefits even to existing staff. This is still under exploration.

W3C’s goal is to provide equivalent benefits and to encourage its staff to leave the Hosts and join the legal entity.  At this stage, as long as the details have not yet been worked out, it is unclear how this will turn out (see legal entity task forces).

Research continuity

W3C gets significant funding from the EU and the US Government.  This funding is important financially; but also is significant to advancing web technology in areas such as accessibility and privacy.

W3C expects it to be challenging for a US organization to qualify for EU funding.  In legal entity task forces we are exploring whether there is a way to do that – but feel that it is important to maintain a relationship with ERCIM for these contracts.  This is especially the case for current contracts which are held by ERCIM.

For US Government funding, W3C would continue to qualify as a grantee.  However, lacking the name recognition and infrastructure of MIT, W3C might be disadvantaged in continuing its success in garnering funding.  So a continued relationship is important at MIT as well.  Again, especially for existing contracts.

The W3C and its Partners may enter into agreements with external funding bodies for the support of W3C work, with the work to be done at a Partner, and the monies supplied directly to the Partner for that work.  This privilege (taking on W3C contracts) is reserved to Partners (and W3C itself).

Revenue continuity

W3C’s Member agreements auto-renew every year.  W3C’s objective is to change the Membership contracts from being between member and Host to being between member and W3C, with dues paid directly to the W3C, with each member transitioning on their annual renewal. The transitional period will need careful management.

However, there may be some limited reasons for a member to continue paying the Partner. Among the reasons could be tax implications in member countries, unwillingness to pay in US dollars, and inertia. For all of these reasons, W3C would like to have the Partners continue to be allowed to collect Member dues through Member agreements, subject to the agreement of both the Member and the W3C management.

Global footprint

W3C plans to continue to have a global footprint; indeed to improve it by hiring more globally than today.  However, in the immediate move to a US based organization, there is a concern that there will be a perception that W3C is moving away from a global commitment.  Certain governance characteristics: a global board; a commitment that the board track global staffing; diversity targets will help with this.  Continuing the relationship with the existing Hosts as Partners is another key aspect of maintaining a global footprint.

Monetary support.

To the extent that the Partners are supporting the W3C by employing staff and/or running contracted (‘research’) projects, and doing recruiting, the W3C will enter into Partnership agreements to support those activities. The Partnership agreement will have an annual duration.

Discretionary funds.

At the moment, a Host can retain 9% of the dues paid to it. The goal is to eliminate these fees so W3C can invest its resources on the web.  With W3C leaving the Hosts, there seems to be little reason to continue the 9% fee.

System services

For a transitional period, W3C may enter into agreements with the Partners for some services.

There are various system services: telecommunications infrastructure, WebEx, cloud services, which benefit W3C.  While we have not developed a system services strategy to this level of detail, there might be some advantage in keeping these services for a period of time.


In some geographies there may be a desire for W3C staff to remain in their existing space; that would be agreed in the Partnership agreement.

Attenuation over time

It is anticipated that the relationship with the Hosts will decrease over time, perhaps stopping entirely at some point.  The reasons for this are: