Vision for W3C

W3C Group Draft Note,

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Chris Wilson (Google)


This Vision attempts to help the world understand what W3C is, what it does and why that matters; and in particular to articulate the principles by which it operates and that guide its decisions.

Status of this document

This section describes the status of this document at the time of its publication. A list of current W3C publications and the latest revision of this technical report can be found in the W3C technical reports index at

This document was published by the Advisory Board as a Group Draft Note using the Note track. Group Draft Notes are not endorsed by W3C nor its Members. This is a draft document and may be updated, replaced or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to cite this document as other than work in progress.

This document is governed by the 12 June 2023 W3C Process Document.

The 15 September 2020 W3C Patent Policy does not carry any licensing requirements or commitments on this document.

This document was developed by the Advisory Board in cooperation with its Vision Task Force. It will continue to evolve, and the AB will issue updates as often as needed. The intent is for this document to eventually become a W3C Statement.

1. Intention

This document is an articulation of W3C’s mission, values, purpose, and principles; in other words, our vision for W3C as an organization in the context of our vision for the Web itself. The goal of this vision is not to predict the future, but to define shared principles to guide our decisions.

This document is not intended to be an operational strategy for W3C Inc. as an organization: such a strategy should take this Vision into account, but it is not the Vision itself.

This document should not provide recommendations for or against specific technologies: technologies are not value neutral, and preference for or against particular technologies should be influenced by values as articulated here, but this Vision should be a guide for thinking about such things, rather than contain specific answers.

The goal of this document is to:

2. Introduction

The World Wide Web was originally conceived as a tool for sharing information. It has evolved into a fundamental part of humanity, providing access to knowledge, education, commerce and shopping, social experiences, civic functions, entertainment, and more.

The Web has been a force for good, and has sparked major social changes. But the Web’s amazing success has led to many unintended consequences that harm society: openness and anonymity have given rise to scams, phishing, and fraud; the ease of gathering personal information has led to business models that mine and sell detailed user data, without people’s awareness or consent; rapid global information sharing has allowed misinformation to flourish and be exploited for political or commercial gain. This has divided societies and incited hate. We must do better. We must take steps to address these consequences in the standards we create.

Technology is not neutral; new technologies enable new actions and new possibilities. We are proud of the good the Web has enabled; we must take the responsibility to use our values to address the actual impact of our work.

Our vision is for a World Wide Web that is more inclusive, and more respectful of its users: a Web that supports truth over falsehood, people over profits, humanity over hate.

We will improve the ethical integrity of the Web. As the Web continues to grow in importance to include all humanity as its users, it must increase its respect for those users and the trust it earns from them.

3. Vision for the World Wide Web

4. Vision for W3C

The fundamental purpose of W3C is to provide an open forum where diverse voices from around the world and from different organizations and industries work together to build consensus on voluntary global standards for Web technologies.

5. Principles and values

As W3C leads the Web forward, our mission is to recognize and embody fundamental values and principles into the architecture of the Web. We must become more principled in our execution of the vision of the Web. We must

We will do this by:

6. Acknowledgements and supporting material

Appendix A: history and present of W3C

How did we get here and where is here?

Note: This section will be removed in subsequent revisions, but it is published here for reference (since it otherwise only exists in GitHub).

History: inventing the Web platform - 1995 to 2005

For the first 10 years or so, members of W3C were working together to invent an open platform that used the internet protocols to share information to all humanity. We figured out what technologies from various existing (often proprietary) systems could be made to work via HTTP, how they might fit together, and which ones really got real world traction. We:

By 2005 or so the overall architecture was fairly clear, though curation of the HTML specification had moved to WHATWG. HTTP serving HTML, CSS, DOM, and Javascript became the core technologies for the Web. Other technologies such as XML, RDF, XSLT, Java/VB, and SOAP remain relevant and viable in some (often large) niches and enterprise-scale applications, but have not become part of the core Web platform.

History: making the Web platform solid, open, interoperable - 2006 to 2019

Once W3C and other open communities had proved the Web’s potential, businesses, governments, and users around the world began to depend on it. However, the Web struggled with many of the details:

The businesses which depended on the Web generally believed that they spent too much developer time just making their websites work across the range of devices and browsers which their customers used. A significant number of major IT, telecom, entertainment, and other businesses have thought it good business to invest in W3C to help make the Web platform work better. W3C and WHATWG agreed on the curation and publication of HTML.

The present: our situation

We have treated the Web as only a force for good, and indeed it has catalyzed major social changes. We are proud of the positive changes: e-commerce, publishing, instant access to facts, social engagement, entertainment. At the same time, the Web’s phenomenal success has led to many unintended consequences that inflict significant distress on society:

In addition, the successes of the Web don’t ensure that Members will keep supporting W3C to perform its functions. Far from there being a need to convince people of the value of the Web, it has become “too big to fail”. The Web is a clear public good, and sometimes suffers from the problem that its maintenance and development are taken as a given, and fewer organizations can economically justify investing their time and expertise in improving the platform for everyone else.

The Consortium must become much more conscious of its role, more careful to analyze the unintended effects and consequences of the specifications it publishes, and the technologies they support. We must investigate and address security problems. We must ensure that privacy is universally valued. We must ensure the Web does not favor centralization. W3C has long unevenly participated in places where regulation and technology meet, and our duty to inform public debate and regulation has expanded: we must establish a forum to discuss and publish technical considerations on social issues. W3C must look more carefully at our contribution to major challenges facing humanity, particularly sustainable development. We must be conscious of our constituencies and their priorities, and we must be explicit about the resulting values and principles. We must continue to expand the accessibility of web content and expand the international reach of the platform.

At the same time, W3C must curate incubation and specification development to meet the continuing needs of rapid technological evolution. With a growing diversity of devices and situations that users access the web for their daily lives, W3C will continue to be the venue where innovators gather to share, critique new ideas, and work towards interoperable solutions users can depend on. The Web platform has become too complex for any individual to grasp fully, or logically analyze, so the omniscient Director model must morph into a scalable decision-making approach.

To do all this, W3C needs to be a standalone international Consortium, no longer hosted by academic institutions, but self-governing and managing its own destiny and infrastructure. We must do this by setting principles and adhering to them: we must return to our core values, and expand on them.

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