W3C Process Document

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

2 W3C Organization

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W3C is built on several foundations:

Unless otherwise stated, all announcements, replies, confirmations, notifications, ballots, minutes, and other documents exchanged within W3C will be electronic (e.g., email, mailing lists, and the Web site).

2.1 Members

As part of its mission to make the Web accessible to all, W3C seeks a diverse Membership from around the world. To meet the needs of a heterogeneous global population of Web users, W3C interacts with vendors of technology products and services, content providers, corporate users, research laboratories, standards bodies, and governments. By working together, W3C's member organizations (hereafter, "Members") reach consensus on specifications, thus encouraging stability in this rapidly evolving technology. W3C also maintains close ties with related organizations such as the IETF, notably for the development of specifications.

At all times, the list of current W3C Members [PUB8] may be found at the W3C Web site.

2.1.1 Member benefits

W3C Members enjoy the following benefits:

2.1.2 Member subscription

The conditions and procedures for joining W3C [PUB5] are described at the W3C Web site.

Companies and organizations may subscribe according to the Full Member agreement [PUB6] or the Affiliate Member agreement [PUB7].

In the case (described in paragraph 5g of the Full and Affiliate Member Agreements), where a Member organization is itself a consortium, user society, or otherwise has members or sponsors, the organization's paid staff and Advisory Committee representative will exercise all the rights and privileges of W3C Membership. In addition, the Advisory Committee representative may designate up to four (or more at the Director's discretion) unpaid agents from the organization who will exercise Membership. These agents shall disclose their employment affiliation when participating in W3C activities. The provisions for Related Members will apply. Furthermore, these agents are expected to represent the broad interests of the W3C Member organization and not the parochial interests of their employers.

2.1.3 Related Members

W3C Membership is open to all entities (as described in "How to Join W3C" [PUB5]). In the interest of ensuring the integrity of the consensus process, W3C may limit the influence of related Members in some circumstances. As used herein, two Members are related if:

  1. Either Member is a subsidiary of the other, or
  2. Both Members are subsidiaries of a common entity.

A subsidiary is an organization of which effective control and/or majority ownership rests with another, single organization.

Under any circumstance where restrictions apply to related Members, it is the responsibility of those Members to disclose the relationship.

2.1.4 Participation in W3C by individuals

All individuals may participate in W3C Activities via W3C's public mailing lists.

An individual may have access to Member-only information by:

Please also consult the section on individual participation criteria.

2.2 The W3C Team

The W3C Team consists of a Chairman, a Director, and Staff.

The Chairman manages the general operation of the Consortium, chairs Advisory Committee and Advisory Board meetings, oversees the development of the W3C international structure (e.g., role of Hosts, creation of W3C Offices, etc.), coordinates liaisons with other standards bodies, and addresses legal and policy issues.

The Director is the lead architect for the technologies developed at the Consortium. The Director also approves Recommendations, Activity proposals, and charters; designates Group Chairs; and acknowledges Submission requests.

The Team manages W3C Activities and establishes the mechanisms and procedures for doing so; this document does not include the details of those mechanisms. The Team provides information to the Members (through email, at the Member Web site, etc.) and may be reached directly by Members through the appropriate Team contact.

As coordinators of W3C Activities, the Team has the following responsibilities:

To promote cooperation between the Members and the Team, Member organizations may send engineers - called "W3C Fellows" - to work with the Team at Host institutions.

2.2.1 Director decisions

The W3C Director's most visible role involves approving or rejecting proposals that have been reviewed by the Advisory Committee (Activity proposals, Proposed Recommendations) or the Team (Submission requests). A Director's decision implies that consensus has been reached by the Advisory Committee or the Team and accounts for comments collected during a review, projections as to whether W3C is likely to achieve market consensus, and personal experience.

Each Director's decision must be announced to the Advisory Committee through an appropriate mailing list.

For most of the procedures described in the Process Document, the Director's decision follows a review by the Advisory Committee. Time intervals between the end of an Advisory Committee review period and the Director's decision are not specified in this document. This is to ensure that the Director has take sufficient time to consider comments gathered during a review.

For those parts of the process when a Director's decision is not preceded by a review by the Advisory Committee (namely, charter or process modifications), the Advisory Committee may appeal the decision. If five percent (5%) or more of the representatives appeal, the proposals in question will be submitted to the Advisory Committee for review.

2.3 Host Institutions

The W3C Team is currently located on three continents at three Host institutions:

W3C is not a legal entity. W3C contracts and details of Membership are established between each Member company and the Host institutions. Host institutions pledge that no Member will receive preferential treatment within W3C and that individual contracts will remain confidential.

Internal administrative details, including Team salaries, detailed budgeting, and other business decisions must be held in confidentiality between the Team and the Host institutions.

Each Host institution exercises all the rights and privileges of W3C Membership. The resident W3C Associate Chairman or Deputy Director will hold the office of Advisory Committee representative for the Host. The Advisory Committee representative from a Host will not normally respond to calls for review (to reduce the potential of a conflict of interest) but will respond to calls for participation (to coordinate participation by non-Team employees of the Host). At Advisory Committee meetings, this person will act as W3C Team, not an Advisory Committee representative.

2.4 Advisory Committee (AC)

The Advisory Committee has several roles within W3C:

2.4.1 Participation

The Advisory Committee consists of one representative from each Member organization. The Advisory Committee representative is the official link between the Member organization and the Team. Advisory Committee representatives have the following responsibilities:

Each Advisory Committee representative is named in the Membership Agreement when the organization joins W3C [PUB5]. When a Member organization wishes to change its Advisory Committee representative, the departing representative must notify the Director of the change by email. If the departing Advisory Committee representative cannot be contacted, the new representative shall be confirmed by a responsible officer of the Member organization.

At all times, the list of current Advisory Committee representatives [MEM1] is available at the Web site.

2.4.2 Communication

The Advisory Committee will make use of the following communication mechanisms:

The names of all Advisory Committee representatives will appear on both lists.

Information about Advisory Committee mailing lists [MEM2] may be found at the W3C Web site.

2.4.3 Meetings

The Advisory Committee will hold face-to-face meetings approximately twice a year. These meetings will be geographically distributed to areas where there is a significant portion of the Membership. At each Advisory Committee meeting, the W3C Team will provide Member organizations with an update of key W3C information, including:


The date and location of each meeting shall be announced at least six months (and preferably one year) before the planned date. In general, only one representative from each Member organization attends each Advisory Committee meeting. In exceptional circumstances (e.g., a period of transition between representatives from an organization), the Member may petition the Director for permission to send a second representative.

At least eight weeks before an Advisory Committee meeting, a mailing list will be established (and Advisory Committee representatives notified) by which Advisory Committee representatives may suggest topics of discussion for the meeting. Suggestions must also be sent to the mailing list for internal Advisory Committee discussions. The agenda for the meeting will be prepared by the Team two weeks before the meeting. The agenda will incorporate Member suggestions, Team reports required by the W3C process, and other topics approved by the Director.

Advisory Committee meetings are chaired by the Chairman. Minutes of the meeting must be posted within two weeks after the meeting. These minutes will include the agenda, a summary of discussions, and any action items identified during the meeting.

Information about future and past meetings [MEM5] (schedules, minutes, etc.) may be found at all times at the W3C Web site.

2.4.4 Advisory Committee reviews and ballots

From time to time, Advisory Committee representatives are asked to review proposals (Activity proposals, Proposed Recommendations, proposed process changes, etc.). Each review period begins with an announcement (the "call for review") from the Director to the Advisory Committee on the Advisory Committee mailing list. A ballot accompanies each call for review. The ballot must clearly indicate:

The review period ends on the date specified in the ballot (unless extended as described below).

Each unrelated Member organization is allowed one ballot, which must be returned by its Advisory Committee representative. Each group of related Members is also allowed one ballot, which must be returned by a single Advisory Committee representative chosen by the group. In the event that the Advisory Committee representative is unable to participate, another person in the organization may submit the ballot accompanied by a statement that the person is acting on behalf of the AC representative. The Advisory Committee representative must receive a copy of this ballot. If more than one ballot is received from a Member organization, the ballots are counted as one valid ballot if they agree, otherwise they are ignored and the Advisory Committee representative will be notified of the discrepancy.

Each ballot will ask the Advisory Committee representative to return the ballot completed with the following information:

The following types of comments are of particular interest to the Director:

These comments and statements are non-binding, but do help the Director reach a decision.

The Team will provide two channels for Advisory Committee review comments: one Member-visible and one Team-confidential. AC Representatives may send information to one or both channels. For example, they may choose to make their choice known to the Membership but to send implementation schedule or other confidential information to the Team only. Comments sent to the Member-visible channel during the review period will be archived and made available to the Members no later than one week after the end of the review period.

If any ballots express opposition to the proposal (opinions three and four above), the Director must inform the Advisory Committee within one week after the end of the review period. The Director's comments should explain the opposition while ensuring the appropriate level of confidentiality. For a two-week period thereafter, Advisory Committee representatives may request to change their ballots. If five percent (5%) or more of the representatives (or fewer at the discretion of the Director) request to change their ballots, the entire review process will start from scratch according to the same procedures.

After the review period and any re-balloting, the Director announces the outcome of the proposal to the Advisory Committee. The Director may:

  1. Approve the proposal.
  2. Approve the proposal with minor changes integrated.
  3. Return the proposal for work, with a request to the initiator to address certain issues.
  4. Reject the proposal.

2.5 Advisory Board (AB)

Created in March 1998 to provide guidance on strategy, management, legal matters, process issues, and conflict resolution, the Advisory Board ensures that W3C remains responsive to the needs of the Members as well as entities outside of W3C (notably other standards bodies).

The Advisory Board exists to provide rapid feedback to the Team on issues that are vital to W3C's operation and cannot wait until the next Advisory Committee meeting for resolution. The dynamism of the Advisory Board also enhances the quality of life for Members as Advisory Committee representatives may bring important issues to the attention of the Advisory Board.

The Advisory Board is not a board of directors that determines W3C's Activities and direction; the Members and Team have this role.

2.5.1 Participation

Advisory Board representatives are not required to work for Member Organizations. While Advisory Board participants are expected to act with the interests of the Consortium in mind, they are not expected to act against the interests of their organizations while doing so. Participants are expected to devote at least one day per month to Advisory Board activities and to participate in Advisory Board mailing list discussions.

Participants are elected to serve on the Advisory Board for two years. Elections are staggered; each year, the Advisory Committee elects representatives for half of the seats on the Advisory Board.

The election process begins with a call for nominations sent by the Director to the Advisory Committee. The call must specify the number of available seats, the deadline for nominations, the mailing list where nominations must be sent, and any other relevant information. Nominations should be made with the consent of the nominee and should include a few informative paragraphs about the nominee.

Once the deadline for nominations has passed, the Director issues a call for votes that includes the names of all nominees, the number of available seats, the deadline for votes, the mailing list where votes must be sent, and any other relevant information.

Once the deadline for votes has passed, the Director announces the results to the Advisory Committee. The nominees with the most votes are elected to fill the available seats. The term of those elected begins with the announcement to the Advisory Committee.

2.5.2 Communication

The Advisory Board will use a mailing list for its communications.

2.5.3 Meetings

The Advisory Board will hold one remote meeting monthly and one face-to-face meeting annually. Advisory Board meetings are chaired by the Chairman. Advisory Board representatives are also encouraged to attend Advisory Committee meetings.

The W3C Chairman and Director (and possibly other members of the Team) participate in Advisory Board meetings.

2.5.4 Deliverables

The Advisory Board will present a report at each Advisory Committee meeting.

2.6 Communication Team

A Communication Team, composed of W3C Staff, will be responsible for managing communication within W3C and between W3C and the general public. The goals of the Communication Team are the following:

Unless otherwise stated (e.g., in legal matters), electronic documents have primacy over paper documents. When legal notifications, contracts, and other forms of communication requiring hardcopy must be exchanged between the Team and a Member organization, they must be sent to the appropriate Advisory Committee representative via a guaranteed-delivery service. Billing information may be sent to the designated contact person for each Member organization.

The primary language for W3C is English.

2.6.1 W3C Web sites

The W3C World Wide Web server has the address http://www.w3.org/. All documents, archives, and updates must be published at this site. The Web site must be kept up-to-date by the Communication Team and all other contributors to the site. Because the Web site is the sole source of so much critical information, every reasonable means must be used to guarantee its availability at all times. W3C assumes that public information on the Web site has a worldwide audience.

The Communication Team will maintain a document registry on the Web site. This registry will archive all active and obsolete W3C Technical Reports.

The Web site will also provide references to pertinent sources of information (electronic or other). This will allow W3C Members and the Team to keep up-to-date on external activities, and will lend credibility to W3C's Web site as a trustworthy source of impartial and quality information about the Web.

Public Web Site

In addition to other information, the following documents will be available on the public portion of the W3C Web site at all times:

Member Web site

A portion of the Web site, known as the Member Web site, will be reserved for access by authorized W3C Members, Team, and other authorized people only. Members have access to this information at all times.

The Communication Team will provide security mechanisms to protect information at this site and will ensure that Members have proper access.

All documents appearing on the Member Web site must be treated as confidential within W3C. W3C Members must agree to use reasonable efforts to maintain this confidentiality and not to release this information to the general public or press. Documents that require particularly confidential treatment must be marked as such. An Advisory Committee representative may extend access to Member-only information to those fellow employees considered by the representative to be appropriate recipients. All recipients are expected to respect the intended (limited) scope of Member-only information.

The Member Web site includes a help page [MEM6] to assist Members in finding information and appropriate contacts within the Team.

Group Web sites

A portion of the Member Web site will be reserved for each W3C group. It is each group's responsibility to maintain its own group archives (minutes, milestones, etc.) at this space.

2.6.2 Mailing Lists

The W3C Team will maintain one mailing list (mentioned above) for all official communications to AC representatives.

The W3C Team will maintain one mailing list for sending general information to W3C Members (including Newsletters, News announcements, etc.). The email address of each Member organization's AC representative will be on this list.

For both lists, the Advisory Committee representative's email address should suffice. However, upon request from the Advisory Committee representative and subject to approval by the Communication Team, additional addresses for the Member organization may be added to each list. The Member company must agree that redistribution of W3C mailings will be for internal use only. Failure to contain distribution internally may result in suspension of additional email addresses until the W3C Team can be assured of appropriate distribution.

An Advisory Committee representative may ask the Director, at the Director's discretion, to forward an open letter to either list.

The Communication Team may also establish other mailing lists to facilitate communication within a group. Only members of the group and W3C Team may be listed in such a mailing list. Each group is responsible for maintaining archives of these mailing lists on its group space.

For interaction with the general public, the Communication Team maintains general mailing lists to which anyone may subscribe and send messages.

The list of available mailing lists [MEM2] may be found at the W3C Web site.

2.6.3 Press Releases

The Communication Team will establish a mechanism for confirming and releasing W3C information to the press and/or general public. Press releases and comments to the press and public are primarily issued at the discretion of the W3C Director, except for those processes explicitly defined in this document.

2.6.4 Calendar of Events

To promote the active and open participation of all Member organizations, the Communication Team will maintain a calendar [MEM3] of events that shows all official events scheduled by W3C. Consortium-wide events will be differentiated from group events on this calendar. Archives of the calendar will be maintained on the Member Web site, with links to conclusions, email archives, and minutes from scheduled events.

Members and the Team should notify the Communication Team of events and schedules that should appear on the calendar and of changes to the calendar. The Communication Team will also notify Members of upcoming events through one of the Member mailing lists.

2.6.5 Newsletter

The Communication Team will provide a weekly news service to the Members. The Newswire [MEM8] provides brief information about Activities, calls for review, calls for participation, notifications of upcoming events, Director's decisions, acknowledged Submission requests, and more. The Newsletter [MEM4] provides more in-depth coverage of publications and events.