A W3C Community Group is an open forum, without fees, where Web developers and other stakeholders develop specifications, hold discussions, develop test suites, and connect with W3C’s international community of Web experts. Community Groups may produce Specifications; these are not standards-track documents but may become input to the standards process. For instance, a Community Group might gather to work on a new technical specification, or convene to have discussions about a tutorial for an existing specification.
A W3C Business Group gives innovators that want to have an impact on the development of the Web in the near-term a vendor-neutral forum for collaborating with like-minded stakeholders, including W3C Members and on-Members. Business Groups may produce Specifications; these are not standards-track documents but may become input to the standards process. For instance, a Business Group might gather to compile industry-specific requirements or use cases as input to a W3C Working Group. Or they might develop an ontology of interest to a particular market or region. Business Groups can also provide one or more industries the means to build shared understanding about the application of Web technology to a given sector or across sectors.
To get started in your group:
- Every group must have one or more Chairs. Read how to choose your Chair(s).
- Review the Community and Business Group process and contributor agreements. These govern how people participate, and the copyright and patent licensing commitments that people (or organizations) make upon joining a group.
- Review your group’s home page and the infrastructure available to your group to get work done.
- Your group has a blog (currently WordPress) that you may use to post news. Each group’s posts are also disseminated on the Community and Business Group home page.
- We recommend that you create a charter that explains clearly what the group will do and why people should join it. Please consult our charter template.
- Invite people to join the group; read more about how to join a group.
- The Group Chair(s) are authorized to publish reports by the group; see how to publish a report.
Once you are up and running, see good practice for running a group.
Questions? Write to email@example.com.
Yes, see this HTML slide set from September 2011. If you have suggestions for the presentation or would like to improve it, please contact Ian Jacobs on firstname.lastname@example.org.
W3C has a number of types of groups (see the comparison of group types). These questions can help you choose the right type:
- Do you want a W3C standard? If so, choose a Working Group.
- If you don’t want a standard but do want W3C staff resources dedicated to your group? If so, choose an Interest Group.
- Do you want to be able to work in non-public space, have some support from W3C staff, and high-bandwidth connectivity with other groups? If so, choose a Business Group.
- Otherwise, choose a Community Group.
First, some important similarities:
- Anyone may participate in either.
- The group can address topics of their choosing.
- There is no end date.
- Participants agree to the same IPR policies (except that a Business Group may choose to distribute a report under the W3C Document License)
Some important differences:
- There is no cost to participate in a Community Group. Non-Member organizations and unaffiliated individuals pay a fee to participate in a Business Group.
- As a result, Business Groups benefit from additional W3C staff involvement. By default, a Community Group has no staff involvement (other than oversight of the program as a whole).
- Community Group proceedings are public. Business Groups may choose public or non-public.
- Business Groups have access to teleconference facilities.
For more details and a comparison with other W3C group types, see the full process comparison.
No. Anyone may participate. For Business Groups, please see the fees for participation by organizations and individuals that are not already W3C Members.
Yes, both face-to-face and teleconferences.
For teleconferences, Business Groups have access to W3C teleconference services. Community Groups may use external teleconference services.
Yes. However, the Community Group Reports must be available in English. Groups are encouraged to provide periodic updates in English for the benefit of the global community.
W3C encourages you to spread the word about the work that you are doing in Community and Business groups, and to encourage participation. It is appropriate to refer to this as “work happening at W3C.” Please do not say that W3C “endorses” the work (as there is no process for gauging endorsement by other groups or the Membership as a whole).
Community Groups and Business Groups themselves to not create Web standards (though their outputs may advance to the standards track in a Working Group). Therefore, please do not refer to Community or Business Group work as “standards work” or “draft standards.”
Yes. The primary question from W3C’s perspective is: who controls the patent and copyrights to contributed materials? If the project controls the rights, W3C will ask that a representative who has the authority to sign the CLA on behalf of the project join the group.
No. However, the W3C Community Contributor License Agreement (CLA) and W3C Community Final Specification Agreement are designed to facilitate transition to the W3C Recommendation Track for standards development.
While Business Groups do not have full-time staff contacts, W3C management does assign a staff liaison to help facilitate the work of the group. The liaison shares expertise about W3C and helps connect the group chair(s) with chairs from other groups. The liaison is not generally a full-time group participant. For more information about the role of the team liaison, and to identify the liaison for a particular group, please contact Alan Bird <abird @w3.org>.
Yes. There are several ways you can share your suggestions:
- For small suggestions about infrastructure improvements or fixes, please send email to email@example.com (public archive).
- For larger suggestions about the program as a whole or new infrastructure features, please contact the Community Council. The Council is a group of people (including W3C staff and non-staff) that works publicly to improve Community and Business Groups. We invite discussion within that group, and anyone may join the Community Council.
- Get a W3C account (if you don’t have one).
- Push the “Join” button for any current group. If you are not logged in, you will be prompted to log in. If you already have an account but we don’t know your affiliation (e.g., your employer) we will prompt you to update your account.
What you see after pushing the Join button depends on the affiliation you have declared in your user account. This is because joining a group involves agreeing to the W3C Community Contributor License Agreement (CLA). Below we describe the join process for different affiliations.
Please remember that for Community Groups, there is no fee for anyone. There are fees for participation in a Business Group by non- W3C Members.
If you work for a W3C Member
If you work for a W3C Member:
- If you are a Member Advisory Committee Representative, you may join the group immediately on behalf of your organization. After joining, you may nominate others from your organization to participate in the group.
- If you are otherwise an employee of a W3C Member, you may push a button that sends a request to your Advisory Committee Representative to join the group on behalf of your organization. You do not join the group directly yourself. You will be informed if your Advisory Committee Representative accepts (or declines) to join the group.
If you work for a non-Member organization
- If you are affiliated with a non-Member organization, you may join the group immediately on behalf of the organization, which we recommend in most cases.
- Or, you may request to participate without representing your affiliated organization, but those requests are subject to approval at the discretion of the W3C Staff. We attempt to address requests within one business day. W3C publishes guidelines for evaluating individual requests to participate in a group.
- If you are affiliated with the W3C Staff, you may join immediately as an individual.
- If you have no affiliation with any organization, you may join immediately as an individual.
- Get a W3C account (if you don’t have one).
- Push the “Support group” button for the group you wish to support. If you are not logged in, you will be prompted to log in.
Whenever you are logged in, you can see which groups you have already supported in the list of proposed groups.
Only the Advisory Committee Representative of a Member organization may join a group, and does so on behalf of the organization. Our infrastructure makes it easy for other Member employees to send requests to their Advisory Committee Representative to ask them to join a group.
Yes. You do not need to join the group if you only intend to follow the group’s work or engage in discussions without making material contributions; you may use the public mailing lists for those purposes. However, if you plan to contribute materially to the development of a specification, W3C requires that you participate under the CLA.
Yes. From the Group’s homepage, look for the “Mailing List” menu on the left-hand side. Follow the link to the home page for the list that interests you. On that page, select “subscribe to this list.”
See the Community and Business Group Process, which in turn links to the IPR Agreements.
Community and Business Groups replaced Incubator Groups (XGs).
W3C will continue to charter Working, Interest, and Coordination Groups. When deciding whether to create an Interest Group or a Community/Business Group, note that:
- all Interest Group Charters require Member review (even those that are merely mailing lists); Community and Business Groups do not.
- Interest Groups can have Team Contacts; Community and Business Groups do not have that level of staff connectivity.
- Community and Business Groups have a stronger IPR policy than Interest Groups.
The W3C Recommendation track can be characterized (roughly) as a series of requirements for review and implementability. If a Community or Business Group fulfills those criteria, a subsequent Working Group can advance it quickly from draft to standard. The theoretical “fast track” would be for a Working Group to publish a Last Call Draft (as the first Working Draft), process issues, then request to advance to Proposed Recommendation directly (if implementation criteria have already been satisfied).
There are other ways for Community and Business Groups to accelerate standardization. Because there are fewer barriers to participation it should be easier to convene the right stakeholders at the table right from the start (and to grow or change as needed). This makes it easy, for example, to identify the “right” requirements up front, which helps ensure that a future standard is more quickly and widely adopted.
In several ways (existing or planned):
- Continuity of IPR commitments. The Community Group Agreement is designed to ensure smooth transition of IPR commitments from Community Groups to Working Groups.
- Continuity of participation. When a Working Group takes up a Community Group Report, non-Member employees may continue their participation in the Working Group for a limited duration while their employer makes the transition to Membership. The individual’s employer must have fulfilled the organizational patent requirements of the Community Group Agreement.
- Simplified charter creation process. If the mission of a new Working Group is simply to advance a Community Group Report to Recommendation, W3C plans to provide a simplified charter template that is mostly boilerplate, with additional information about resources, deliverables, and milestones. We are also contemplating a streamlined charter review process for documents that make the transition, but this streamlined process does not yet exist. We anticipate that because work will have been published at W3C, less review will be necessary when it transitions to a Working Group.
No. It complements the Recommendation Track and is designed to facilitate transition to the Recommendation Track. W3C is an ISO/JTC1 PAS Submitter and only submits W3C Recommendations (not Community Group Reports or other report types) to ISO.
No. However the Community Development Lead is empowered to do so; see the participation policies.
We expect the W3C Advisory Board to discuss what, if any, formalization is required (e.g., integration into the W3C Process Document, additional legal discussion, etc.).
See the Patent and Copyright Policy Summary.
What is the document license under which Community Group and Business Group Specifications are published?
The W3C Community Contributor License Agreement (CLA) includes a copyright grant (section 2) as does the Final Specification Agreement. In either case, the grant is directly from the person who signs the Agreement to “any person or entity who exercises copyright or patent rights granted under this CLA…”
Each group may establish its own mechanisms for recording contributions provided that the history of Contributions must must be archived permanently on the W3C Web site (see the process for details).
For instance, if the group is developing a Specification in a wiki or repository, the group can establish that each contribution is included in the Specification directly by the Contributor.
One mechanism available to all Community and Business Groups is a publicly readable “contrib” mailing list where participants can clearly record their Contributions. Read more about group mailing lists.
In some groups, there may be an Editor whose job it is to record Contributions from other participants. When participants entrust the Editor with the job of recording contributed material, the group must be diligent about recording the true source and date of the Contribution when the Editor is merely transcribing the Contribution. This is particularly important when a Contribution is initially spoken (e.g., during a teleconference) and transcribed by the Editor or some other party. The date of an oral Contribution is the date on which it was spoken.
What are main similarities and differences between IPR policies of Working Groups and Community/Business Groups?
Here is a rough summary of primary similarities and differences between the W3C Patent Policy and the Community Group IPR policies.
- Participants make Royalty-Free Licensing Requirements as defined in the W3C Patent Policy. However, the scope of defensive suspension is broader in the W3C Patent Policy.
- Participants have no disclosure obligations over the deliverables of the group.
However, the policies take different approaches in order to meet different needs (e.g., favoring lower risk or quicker startup):
- The W3C Patent Policy is “opt-out”: Participants make commitments based on charter scope, then have exclusion opportunities for each Recommendation.
- The Community/Business Group policy is “opt-in”: Participants first make commitments over their own contributions (with a limited opt-out period in case of mistakes). Then, when a specification is stable, participants make a voluntary “final text commitment” over the group specification as well as an RF commitment for material that advances to the Recommendation Track. (There are additional details regarding exclusion in such cases.)
- The Community Group copyright is permissive for the creation of derivative works. The W3C Document License is not.
To meet a different set of expectations. For instance, W3C did not adopt the W3C Patent Policy as-is for Community Groups because it is closely aligned with the W3C Recommendation Track and group chartering process, neither of which is used in Community Groups.
Because organizations ask to evaluate charter scopes (via Advisory Committee Review and whatever internal legal reviews they conduct) this requires extra start-up time. A goal in designing Community Groups was to reduce that start-up time, and so we concluded that a different IPR policy was necessary.
The resulting IPR policy has two parts: a Contributor Agreement (CLA) and a “Final Specification Agreement.” The purpose of the CLA is to allow people to join a group, determine themselves what they want to contribute to the group, and thus determine the extent of their licensing commitment. Because there is no charter scope that must be reviewed by legal, groups can start immediately and people can join them without extensive review. People can choose to contribute or not, and the CLA limits their obligations to their own Contributions to a Specification.
This approach provides a base level of protection to implementers. To secure more protection, there is a second phase where people make a voluntary Final Specification Commitment over the full text of a Specification.
W3C has designed the CLA and Final Specification Agreement to integrate smoothly with the W3C Patent Policy. For instance, the new Agreements reuse the definitions of Essential Claims and Royalty-Free License of the Patent Policy. In short: we reused what we could from the existing policy, and adapted the rest to match a new set of expectations.
Both types of groups operate under the same legal agreements (the process, CLA, and Final Specification Agreement), except as follows:
No. The two-Agreement system was designed to make it easier and faster to start groups: in general, it is possible to start a group with little understanding of the direction of a specification. However, in exchange, Participants may choose not to sign the Final Agreement, if, for example, they are not satisfied with the emerging specification.
Of course, walking away from a specification can raise questions about whether the Participant holds Essential Claims on text not covered by the CLA. To reduce community doubt, these Participants may choose (but are not required) to disclose relevant information about any Essential Claims.
Please also note the Non-Circumvention provision of the CLA.
Each group has a public communications channel that anyone may read and write to, without having those people sign the Contributor Agreement (CLA). While this arrangement makes it easier for people to be part of a conversation, accepting text contributions from non-participants (via any channel, electronic or otherwise) raises significant IPR concerns for both participants and implementers. Each group, therefore, also has a contribution list that is only writable by group participants.
The Contributor Agreement is intended to be lightweight to encourage organizational IPR commitments, which benefit all. Some points that can be communicated to organizations that are reluctant to participate:
- The obligations under the CLA only apply to Community Group Reports. If the group does not publish a report, there are no patent licensing obligations. And the CLA includes no disclosure obligations.
- A participant only has licensing obligations for contributions. No contributions; no obligations.
- Even after a contribution, there is a 45-day opt-out period starting on the date that the contribution first appears in a Report. Thus, something contributed in error may be withdrawn within that window.
- Even after a contribution, if the material is not included in a Report within 6 months, the licensing obligations under the CLA dissolve.
- Even after a contribution, if the contribution is modified during the evolution of the Report, the licensing obligations under the CLA dissolve.
- The final specification commitment is voluntary.
If my organization joins no Community Groups, does this proposal change existing agreements or commitments within W3C Working Groups?
The CLA defines a limited opt-out that requires “at minimum, in writing using the same communication mechanisms that were used to submit the corresponding Contribution and must include the exact material being withdrawn.” W3C provides a public mailing list that is the recommended mechanism for recording contributions and opt-outs.
Can I grant claims under a non-assert instead of the license defined in the CLA and Final Specification Agreements?
No. However, you may, at your option, grant a non-assert in addition to the license provisions of the agreements (see “Optional, Additional Patent Grant.”). Some examples of non-assert agreements include OWF agreements, the Oasis non-Assert Covenant, or the Microsoft Open Specification Promise.
W3C does not restrict authors’ reuse of their contributions to Community and Business Groups.
Can I publish other people’s contributions to a Community or Business Group Report under a different license?
Yes, under the copyright terms of the CLA. Note, however, that patent commitments extend only to implementations of the Community Group Report or any W3C Recommendation including that work; please see the Community Group policies for more detail.
Can I make it a condition of joining a Community or Business Group or publishing a Specification that people must agree to licensing terms beyond the CLA/FSA?
First, the group must have a Chair in order to publish. Learn how to choose a Chair.
Second, the editor ensures that the report follows a small set of requirements. The requirements page provides information about styles, copyright, etc.
Third, the editor makes the report available on the Web (e.g., using the “page” feature of the group’s WordPress instance, or their wiki, or on github). Note that drafts may be published on any site, but Final Reports must be published on w3.org.
Fourth, the Chair registers and announces the report. When the Chair is logged in, on the group’s home page in the section on Reports (near the top) Chairs will find a link to a page to publish reports. The page for publishing allows Chairs to publish new drafts or to advance existing drafts to “final” status. The following happens when the Chair publishes a report:
- The report is added to the list of reports for the group and appears on both the group’s home page and on the global Reports page.
- The system announces the publication on the group’s blog. This announcement also appears on the Community and Business Group home page and is sent as an email to the group’s public list.
- In the case of a Final Report, the announcement invites people to make commitments under the Final Specification Agreement (FSA). For each final specification there is a page that lists commitments as well as group participants that have not yet made a commitment. On that commitments page there is a button for people to make a commitment under the FSA.
For information on style sheets, see the publication requirements.
These are the recommended steps for first integrating a specification developed outside of a CG into a group:
- Send a copy of the document to the group’s “contrib” list. This allows people to refer to an unchanging text.
- Have all the contributors to the text send follow-up emails to the group’s contrib list stating that they agree to the terms of the CLA for the entire text of the specification. These commitments should be made on behalf of organizations rather than just individuals. If an organization has made a significant contribution to a specification but does not agree to the terms of the CLA, this is likely to hinder the progress of the specification by raising red flags for implementers. When W3C Members have contributed to a specification, their Advisory Committee Representatives should send the commitment emails to the contrib list.
- Ensure that the document in the github repository satisfies the Community Group Report Requirements.
- Publish the document on the Community Group site. Group Chairs are authorized to publish, and log in to do so. Use the github URI to identify the document being published; this allows CG site users to find the latest version as the document evolves.
Yes. Use http://www.w3.org/ns/shortname (where the shortname is the one used for your group, or based on it).
W3C does not register media types in the W3C tree of the IANA registry for CG/BG specifications. W3C does have a process for registering media types for Working Group Recommendations. If you have any questions about media type registration, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Groups use different tools to publish specifications. If WordPress or the group’s wiki are used, they offer revision history mechanisms to track changes.
W3C also has an online HTML diff tool.
Please see our documentation of tools and infrastructure.
Participants choose their own chairs. Please see the recommended approach for choosing chairs.
Once chairs have been chosen anyone in the group (or the W3C staff) can log in and record that information for the group; for details see the tool to identify group chairs.
For some actions, yes. W3C infrastructure is used to record who joins or leaves a group. A Community Group may use its own infrastructure to host communications, as long as those communications are public and archived permanently. The recommended way to accomplish this is to use a W3C archived mailing list in conjunction with the offsite system.
Draft reports may be published anywhere, although final reports are published on W3C’s site.
Please send comments to email@example.com. See our bug tracker.
W3C uses HTTP-based authentication for most pages on its site. This means that when you attempt to access a resource that requires a user name and password, you are prompted. Thereafter you are logged in. But there is no log out procedure for HTTP-based authentication.
We also use some tools (blogs, wikis) that have their own login processes that are based on cookies. These tools have log in and log out procedures. The username and passwords are the same as for other pages.
In W3C Working Groups, people not affiliated with a W3C Member need to be approved as “Invited Experts” in order to participate. For most Working Groups, the staff evaluates each such request, and Chair approval is required as well.
Prior to Community Groups, W3C did not maintain affiliation information for Invited Experts; those accounts are simply noted as being non-Member accounts. However, for Community Groups, in the interest of transparency about the source of contributions to a Specification, we are requiring people with Invited Expert accounts to update their affiliation information. In the near future, people will be able to update their accounts themselves (and maintain accurate information as affiliations change). However, as of the August 2011 launch, we do not have that tool in place and so the W3C staff is processing affiliation changes. There may be a delay of at most 1 day before your request is processed.
Once you have recorded your affiliation information (or that you have no employment affiliation with any organization), you may join Community and Business Groups.
If you are participating in a group and are affiliated with an organization that becomes a W3C Member:
- W3C updates your account to record your affiliation with a W3C Member.
- This automatically ends your participation in the Community Group. We do this because changes in employment change representation under the Contributor Agreement (CLA).
- Your (now Member) organization is encouraged to rejoin the group. For W3C Members, the Advisory Committee Representative is the only person authorized to join a Community Group. After joining, the Advisory Committee Representative nominates you as a participant.
Note: Some of these actions happen automatically, others manually. W3C expects to streamline the process of organization transitions and their impact on participants.
Your user account includes the list of all W3C groups in which you are participating.
People have a “W3C account” which is then used to create a “WordPress account”. We have limited (LDAP) synchronization between the accounts (but plan to improve our LDAP sync). As a result, there are a small number of issues that can occur if the accounts are not in sync:
- You cannot log in to WordPress and an error message indicates that there is already an account with your email address. Solution: W3C has to update your email address in your WordPress account.
When you join a group, you are automatically subscribed to the group’s list(s). The way our lists are currently configured for these groups, you cannot unsubscribe from the list. However, if you leave the group, you are automatically unsubscribed. To leave a group, visit the group’s home page; there is a “leave” button on the right side.
Update your photo; you will be prompted to log in if you have not done so already.