The Core Mission of W3C

I reported in The Mission of W3C that a major focus of W3C is to Strengthen our core mission. This blog entry elaborates.

Broad and / or deep

Since the Web is central to everything (see also The Expanding Web Platform), it is not too surprising that we get involved in standardizing numerous aspects of Web infrastructure. Today we have over 70 groups that are providing standards in diverse areas. Evidently, some of these groups have greater impact on the utility of the Web than others. Also, some of them are more advanced/complex/difficult than others. If we apply an equal amount of effort to each working group, we will sub-optimize the Web by not applying sufficient resource on those that are most crucial. So we prioritize.

Every time we make an incremental change in our effort – such as when we start a new working group or expand the scope of requirements – we are making an incremental prioritization decision. In our “core mission task force” we are taking a step back and looking at the ensemble of our activity. Do we know which small number of the 70 groups are the most important? Are we applying sufficient resource and attention to them to guarantee the greatest possible success?

What does it mean if a Standards Working Group is Core (or not Core) to W3C

As our task force characterizes projects into core and non-core, one might ask what difference it makes.

There are many reasons that a non-core standard might have migrated to W3C. Some of them are:

  • The standard is a natural adjacency of a core standard
  • W3C houses a team who are knowledgeable technologists who can best shepherd the standard
  • The standard is a candidate to be core in the future

… among other reasons. These are actually sensible reasons. So we will absolutely continue to serve the industry and convene those standards groups.

But for core standards we must have a higher target of quality. It is not sufficient to work with the industry to create the standard. We must assure quality of the standard, develop it on schedule, help make sure that it has the right feature set, work on testing strategies, provide training, and help people appreciate the value. Our core mission task force might not change the list of working groups. But it will change emphasis. For items in core, we will provide supreme effort to ensure quality, the right feature set, timeliness, and market support.


Last month I spent a week in Silicon Valley. The importance of giving top attention to core was re-inforced.

Our largest working group is the HTML5 working group. Literally hundreds of people participate in the W3C HTML5 working group.

Many of them work in Silicon Valley. So I met with many of them. They come from a cross-section of companies: browser vendors, web publishers, tools providers, application vendors, security firms.

Since HTML5 is core, it is important that we as a community get it “right”. Since it is central to the next generation web, it evokes strong opinions about what it means to “get it right”. And as I listened to the opinions they are all well reasoned and based on knowledgeable and sensible views of how the future web will evolve.

While they are all reasoned, knowledgeable, and sensible – that does not mean that everyone agrees. Not at all! Nor should we expect agreement for something so central – given that different organizations have different priorities.

Therein, lies W3C’s imperative to provide the right amount of attention to strengthen our core. We bring diverse stakeholders to the table and create the environment for the industry to agree on this critical standard. There is still more work to be done. There are technical issues, testing issues, and disagreements that need to be resolved. It is our commitment to work with all stakeholders to drive this forward in a professional way, and ensure that we have the right feature set, quality, timeliness, and market support.