W3C Process Document

On 1 August 2014, W3C began a transition away from this document; see the current W3C Process Document.

4 Working Groups, Interest Groups, and Coordination Groups

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This document defines three types of groups:

4.1 Requirements for all Groups

Each group must have a charter. Requirements for the charter depend on the group type.

Each group must have a Chair (or co-Chairs) to coordinate the group's tasks. The Director appoints (or re-appoints) Chairs for all groups. The role of the Chair [MEM14] is described in the Member Guide [MEM9].

Each group must have a Team contact, who acts as the interface between the Chair, group participants, and the Team. The role of the Team contact is described in the Member Guide [MEM9].

The Chair and the Team contact of a group should not be the same individual. The Chair may be from the Team.

Each group must have an archived mailing list for formal group communication (e.g., meeting announcements, objections to decisions, etc.). The Chair and Team contact should ensure that new participants are subscribed to all relevant mailing lists. Refer to the list of group mailing lists [MEM2].

A group may form task forces (composed of group participants) to carry out assignments for the group. The scope of these assignments must not exceed the scope of the group's charter. A group should document the process it uses to create task forces (e.g., each task force may have an informal "charter").

4.1.1 Meetings

This document distinguishes two types of meetings:

Meeting announcements should be sent to all appropriate group mailing lists, i.e., those most relevant to the anticipated meeting participants.

The following table lists requirements for organizing a meeting:

Face-to-face meetings Distributed meetings
Meeting announcement (before) eight weeks* one week*
Agenda available (before) two weeks 24 hours (or 72 hours for Monday meetings)
Participation confirmed (before) three days 24 hours
Action items available (after) three days 24 hours
Minutes available (after) two weeks 48 hours

* To allow proper planning (e.g., travel arrangements), the Chair must give sufficient advance notice about the date and location of a meeting. Shorter notice for a meeting is allowed provided that there are no objections from group participants.

4.1.2 Group Consensus and Votes

The W3C process requires Chairs to ensure that groups consider all legitimate views and objections, and endeavor to resolve them. Decisions may be made during meetings (face-to-face or distributed) as well as through email. The following terms are used in this document to describe the level of support for a group decision:

  1. Unanimity: All participants agree.
  2. Consensus: No participants object (but some may abstain).
  3. Dissent: At least one participant objects.

Where unanimity is not possible, the group should strive to make decisions where there is at least consensus with substantial support (i.e., few abstentions) from all participants. To avoid decisions that are made despite nearly universal apathy (i.e., with little support and substantial abstention), groups are encouraged to set minimum thresholds of active support before a decision can actually be recorded. The appropriate percentage may vary depending on the size of the group and the nature of the decision. A group charter may include a quorum requirement for consensus decisions.

In some cases, even after careful consideration of all points of view, a group may find itself unable to reach consensus. When this happens, if there is a need to advance (for example, to produce a deliverable in a timely manner), the Chair may announce a decision to which there is dissent. When deciding to announce such a decision, the Chair must be aware of which participants work for the same (or related) Member organizations and weigh their input accordingly. When a decision must be reached despite dissent, groups should favor proposals that create the least strong objections. This is preferred over proposals that are supported by a large majority of the group but that cause strong objections from a few participants.

The Chair decides when to resolve an issue in the face of dissent. In this case, a dissenter may request that any formal objections be reported at later review stages.

Issues must be formally addressed

In the context of this document, a Working Group has formally addressed an issue when the Chair can show (archived) evidence of having sent a response to the party who raised the issue. This response should include the Working Group's resolution and should ask the party who raised the issue to reply with an indication of whether the resolution reverses the initial objection.

Formal objections must be archived and reported

If dissenters say they can live with a given decision, this should be taken as an indication that the group can move on to the next topic, but the inverse is not necessarily true: dissenters cannot stop a group's work simply by saying that they cannot live with the decision. When the Chair believes that the legitimate concerns of the dissenters have received due consideration as far as is possible and reasonable, then objections must be recorded and the group should move on.

A formal objection should include technical arguments and propose changes that would remove the dissenter's objection; these proposals may be vague or incomplete. The Chair must report an objection that includes such information to the Director at later review stages (e.g., in the request to the Director to advance a technical report to Candidate Recommendation). If an objection does not include this information, the Chair is not required to report it at later review stages.

During an Advisory Committee Review, Advisory Committee representatives must be able to refer to archived objections.

The Chair may reopen a decision when presented with new information

The Chair may reopen a decision when presented with new information, including:

The Chair should archive that a decision has been reopened, and must do so upon request from a group participant.

Appeal of a Chair's decision

Participants should always try to resolve issues within the group and should register with the Chair any objections they may have to a decision (e.g., a decision made as the result of a vote). When participants of a Member organization believe that their concerns are not being duly considered within the group, they may ask the Director (via their Advisory Committee representative) to confirm or deny the decision. The participants should also make their requests known to the Team contact. The Team contact is responsible for informing the Director when invited experts raise concerns about due process.

Any requests to the Director to confirm a decision must include a summary of the issue (whether technical or procedural), decision, and rationale for the objection. All counter-arguments, rationales, and decisions must be archived.


Only after the Chair has determined that all available means of reaching consensus through technical discussion and compromise have failed, and that a vote is necessary to break a deadlock, should a group vote to resolve a substantive issue. In this case, the Chair must archive:

A Working Group participant must be in good standing in order to participate in a vote to resolve a substantive issue.

Working Groups may vote for other purposes. For instance, the Chair may conduct a "straw poll" vote as a means of determining whether there is consensus about a potential decision. Votes may also be used for arbitrary decisions. For example, it is appropriate to decide by simple majority whether to hold a meeting in San Francisco or San Jose; (there's not much difference geographically). When simple majority votes are used to decide minor issues, members of the minority are not required to state the reasons for their dissent, and the votes of individuals need not be recorded.

A group charter may include voting procedures.

4.2 Working Groups and Interest Groups

An individual is a Working Group participant if the individual has joined the Working Group and is in good standing. An individual is an Interest Group participant if the individual has joined the Interest Group. A Member organization may claim to participate in a Working Group or Interest Group if it has at least one employee who is a participant.

On an exceptional basis, a Working or Interest Group participant may designate an alternate to attend a meeting. For good standing, voting, and other Working Group processes, "participant" means "participant or alternate."

To allow rapid progress, Working Groups are intended to be small (typically fewer than 15 people) and composed of experts in the area defined by the charter. In principle, Interest Groups have no limit on the number of participants. When a Working Group grows too large to be effective, it may be split into an Interest Group (a discussion forum) and a much smaller Working Group (a core group of highly dedicated participants).

4.2.1 Working Group and Interest Group Creation and Modification

The Director creates, modifies, or extends a Working Group or Interest Group by sending a call for participation to the Advisory Committee. The call for participation must include a reference to the charter, the name(s) of the group's Chair(s), the name of the Team contact, and instructions for joining the group. A group does not exist prior to the initial call for participation.

To make substantial changes to a charter (e.g., to stop work on a deliverable due to negative review by the Advisory Committee), the Director must send a new call for participation to the Advisory Committee that indicates the changes (e.g., regarding deliverables or resource requirements). Charter modifications should not be made without substantial agreement in the group to accept the changes. Group participants who do not agree with a decision to modify the charter or with the proposed modifications may raise objections through their Advisory Committee representative (or through the Team contact for invited experts).

To extend a charter without otherwise modifying it substantially, the Director must send a new call for participation to the Advisory Committee that indicates the new duration. The new duration must not exceed the duration of the Activity to which the group belongs.

A call for participation that modifies or extends an group charter should provide rationale for the changes and include information about the current state of the group.

The Director may create, modify, or extend a Working Group or Interest Group at any time, but only as part of an approved Activity.

Advisory Committee representatives may appeal the creation, modification, or extension of a Working Group or Interest Group.

4.2.2 Working Group and Interest Group Charters

A Working Group or Interest Group charter must include the following information.

A Working Group charter must also include an estimate of the expected time commitment from participants.

A Working Group or Interest Group charter may also include the following information:

A charter may include provisions other than those required by this document. The charter should highlight whether additional provisions impose constraints beyond those of the W3C Process Document (e.g., limits on the number of individuals employed by the same Member organization or group of related Members who may join a Working Group).

4.2.3 How to Join a Working Group or Interest Group

The following individuals may request to join a Working Group or Interest Group:

An employee of a Member organization, in which case:
The request to join must either be sent by the nominee's Advisory Committee representative or by the nominee directly, copying the Advisory Committee representative. If the nominee will not be participating on behalf of the Member organization, the request to join must say so. The Advisory Committee representative must ensure that nominees are qualified; (refer to W3C's individual participation criteria). Chairs should set expectations about the roles and qualifications of participants to assist the Advisory Committee representative. The Chair must not reject a request to join from an employee of a Member organization, but the Team may reject a request in exceptional circumstances (e.g., situations that might jeopardize the progress of the group).
An individual who is not an employee of a Member organization, in which case:
The request to join must indicate that the nominee wishes to participate as an invited expert (even for participation in a meeting on a one-time basis). Invited experts have the same rights and responsibilities in a group as employees of Member organizations. Invited experts must agree to the terms set forth in the invited expert and collaborators agreement [PUB17]. Invited experts must sign the W3C Technical Reports Release Form [PUB19] when they contribute to a W3C technical report; employees of Member organizations are covered by the Member contract. Approval to participate as an invited expert must come from both the Chair and the Team contact. When there is disagreement between the Chair and the Team contact, the Director determines the outcome of the request.

To request to join a group, an individual must follow the instructions in the call for participation. An individual may request to join a group at any time during its existence, following the instructions in the call for participation.

In each request to join a Working Group or Interest Group, the individual must disclose, according to the W3C IPR policy, knowledge of relevant IPR claims by the individual's employer.

Each request to join a Working Group must also include a statement that the participant accepts the participation terms set forth in the charter (with an indication of charter date or version).

Each request for a Member employee to join a Working Group must state that the individual's Advisory Committee representative agrees that the Member will provide the necessary financial support for participation (e.g., for travel, telephone calls, conferences, etc.).

Working Group participants must follow the conflict of interest policy by disclosing information to the rest of the group.

4.2.4 Good Standing in a Working Group

Participation on an ongoing basis implies a serious commitment to the Working Group charter, including:

When the Chair and the Team contact agree, the Chair may declare a participant in bad standing. If there is disagreement between the Chair and the Team contact about standing, the Director determines the participant's standing.

A participant may be declared in bad standing in any of the following circumstances:

  1. the individual has missed more than one of the last three distributed meetings;
  2. the individual has missed more than one of the last three face-to-face meetings;
  3. the individual has not provided deliverables in a timely fashion twice in sequence.

The above criteria may be relaxed if the Chair and Team contact agree that doing so will not set back the Working Group. For example, the attendance requirement may be relaxed for reasons of expense (e.g., cost of travel) or scheduling (for example, an exceptional teleconference is scheduled at 3:00 a.m. local time for the participant). The Chair and Team contact should apply criteria for good standing consistently.

When a participant risks losing good standing, the Chair and Team contact must discuss the matter with the participant and the participant's Advisory Committee representative before declaring the participant in bad standing.

The Chair declares a participant in bad standing by informing the participant's Advisory Committee representative and the participant of the decision. If the Advisory Committee representative and Chair differ in opinion, the Advisory Committee representative may ask the Director to confirm or deny the decision. Invited experts declared in bad standing should ask the Team contact to speak to the Director on their behalf.

In order for a participant to regain good standing, the participant must meet the participation requirements for two consecutive meetings. The Chair must inform the Advisory Committee representative of any change in standing.

4.2.5 Working Group Status Reports

At least every three months, each Working Group must provide the public with an update of their progress. A progress report may take a variety of forms, including the publication of a technical report (in which case, the status section and the document itself serve as an update).

4.2.6 Working Group and Interest Group Closure

A Working Group or Interest Group charter must specify a duration for the group. The Director, subject to appeal by Advisory Committee representatives, may close a group prior to the date specified in the charter in any of the following circumstances:

4.3 Coordination Groups

W3C Activities interact in many ways. There are dependencies between groups within the same Activity or in different Activities. There may also be dependencies between W3C Activities and the activities of other organizations. Examples of dependencies include the use by one technology of another being developed elsewhere, scheduling constraints between groups, the synchronization of publicity for the announcement of deliverables, etc. Coordination Groups are created to manage dependencies so that issues are resolved fairly and the solutions are consistent with W3C's mission and results.

Where a Coordination Group's scope covers two groups with unresolved disputes or tensions, it is the first locus of resolution of these disputes. If agreement cannot be found between the Coordination Group and other groups involved, then the Team should arbitrate after consultation with parties involved and other experts, and, if deemed necessary, the Advisory Committee.

4.3.1 Coordination Group Creation and Closure

The Director creates or modifies a Coordination Group by sending the Coordination Group charter to the Advisory Committee. Since the charter must include the names of the group's participants, the announcement is not a call for participation.

Coordination Group participants should represent the coordinated groups; participation should evolve as groups become newly dependent or independent. To promote effective communication between a Coordination Group and each group being coordinated, participation in a Coordination Group is mandatory for the Chair of each group being coordinated. The Coordination Group's charter may also specify other participants, such as invited experts or liaisons with other groups internal or external to W3C. The role of these additional participants should be clearly stated, as well as whether they are invited experts specified by name, invited experts in a specific field to be invited by the Chair, or representatives of particular organizations. Note: Liaisons with external organizations must be coordinated by the Team due to requirements for public communication, IPR policies, confidentiality agreements, mutual membership agreements, etc. Please refer to "Guidelines for Establishing Partnerships [PUB22]."

Coordination Group participants must follow the conflict of interest policy by disclosing information to the rest of the group.

A Coordination Group may be created as part of an Activity proposal (for example to coordinate other groups in the Activity or to draw up charters of future groups), or during the life of an Activity when dependencies arise. A Coordination Group may operate as part of several W3C Activities.

A Coordination Group should close when dependencies have been resolved.

4.3.2 Coordination Group Charters

A Coordination Group charter must include the following information:

A Coordination Group charter may also include the following information: