On considering the role of W3C Members in Working Group decisions

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On 29 November 2007, Dan Connolly, co-Chair of the HTML Working Group pointed me to an IRC log of discussion about HTML 5 which prompted this question: is it acceptable to take into consideration the role of each W3C member organization in the overall deployment marketplace when we make decisions (in a Working Group)? The question led to a request for interpretation of this phrase from section 2.1 of the W3C Process Document: "The Team must ensure that ... no Member receives preferential treatment within W3C." As editor of the document, I forwarded the request to the W3C Advisory Board (AB), the body elected by the W3C Membership that manages the evolution of the W3C Process. Here was their reply, based on the consensus reached at their 10 December meeting:

  1. Consensus is a core value of W3C (see section 3.3 of the Process Document). To promote consensus, the W3C process requires Chairs to ensure that groups consider all legitimate views and objections, and endeavor to resolve them, whether these views and objections are expressed by the active participants of the group or by others.
  2. Building consensus takes time, however. The AB's understanding of the current situation within the HTML 5 Working Group is that there are questions about whether some of the content of the current Editor's draft lies within the scope of the charter. If a Participant has a legitimate reason to challenge whether a proposed feature is in scope, and requests additional time to determine whether to extend a licensing commitment to a feature the Participant had not viewed as being in scope, granting a modest extension for internal review is in order. The Chair is responsible for managing the competing tensions of rapid progress and greater consensus.
  3. When the Chair has determined that all available means of reaching consensus through technical discussion and compromise have failed, a Working Group may vote on a substantive technical issue. In that case, each vote carries equal weight; see Process Document section 3.4 for details on votes.
  4. There are questions that are not amenable to being resolved by votes. For example, W3C seeks to create interoperable standards, and what counts for being implementable or being interoperable is running code that demonstrates the answer to the question being asked. Feedback from implementers plays a singular role in establishing interoperability, as illustrated by W3C's calls for implementation experience at Candidate Recommendation.

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