This document governs participation in W3C Community and Business Groups. For information about other types of groups in W3C, please see the W3C Process Document.
Since the early days of the Consortium, the number of stakeholders of the Web has grown significantly, powerful collaboration tools have gone mainstream, and expectations about standards themselves have evolved. W3C’s “classic” process and Membership models meet the needs of some stakeholders, but not all. W3C seeks to offer larger numbers of developers, designers, and others passionate about the Web the means to build communities.
This document defines W3C Community Groups, where anyone may develop Specifications, hold discussions, develop tests, and so on, with no participation fee. Community groups emphasize individual innovation and allow an easy way for innovation from individuals to move to the “classic” W3C standards process, which emphasizes broad consensus-building and implementation among global stakeholders. Community Groups that develop specifications do so under policies designed to strike a balance between ease of participation and safety for implementers and patent holders. The new offering complements the classic process and patent policy; it does not replace it.
This document also defines Business Groups to increase participation by organizations that may not be primarily motivated by participation in W3C standards development but instead are interested in the application of W3C technologies to business problems, and in providing high-bandwidth input to the standards process. Business Group participants who are not W3C Members pay for staff resources, but the fee for participating in Business Groups is less than W3C Membership (and grants fewer benefits).
These programs are managed by a Community Development Lead, chosen by W3C management. The roles of the Community Development Lead are described throughout this document. Since December 2018, Dominique Hazaël-Massieux is Community Development Lead.
The W3C Forum is a venue for discussion of Web-related topics including development of specifications. People submit material (a “Community Submission”) to the Forum that they wish to be developed by a Community or Business Group. W3C reserves the right to refuse publication of a Community Submission, for instance if the material is likely to cause offense or confusion.
Individuals who wish to participate in the W3C Forum — enter into discussion or submit proposals — agree to the general communications policies. Participants are responsible for making clear the copyright and patent terms of their submissions.
Community Submission Publication Policies
Community Submissions must not use a style that will cause them to be confused with W3C Technical Reports. W3C may publish additional policies to govern publication of Community Submissions.
Creation of a Community Group
Anyone may propose the creation of a Community Group. A proposal is “complete” when:
- It includes a name for the group (not already taken by a Community Group) and a scope description. The scope should be different than that of any other Community Group (but it may be the same, such as when two communities wish to explore two solutions to the same set of problems).
- Five individuals support the creation of the group. The W3C Forum may be used to build this support.
Once a proposal is complete, W3C announces the creation of the group (which includes its software infrastructure). This date is called the “launch date.”
The Community Development Lead does not formally approve proposals but may reject a proposal for a Community Group when the scope is likely to cause offense or confusion, is frivolous, or is overly broad.
Community Group Operational Agreements
A Community Group may adopt operational agreements (recorded, for example, in the form of a charter) that establish the group’s scope of work, decision-making processes, communications preferences, and other operations. For example, the agreement could establish fair and reasonable criteria for accepting contributions in a specification, or set the group’s scope of work (e.g., development of educational materials or discussions about future standards work at W3C).
The following rules govern Community Group operational agreements:
- They must be publicly documented.
- They must be fair and must not unreasonably favor or discriminate against any group participant or their employer.
- They must not conflict with or modify this Community and Business Group Process, the Community Contributor License Agreement (CLA), or the Final Specification Agreement.
The person who first proposes a group may establish the group’s initial operational agreements. Thereafter, the Chair determines the means by which the group adopts and modifies operational agreements. The Chair must give actual notice to the participants of any material changes to the agreements. Participants may resign from the group if they do not wish to participate under the new agreements.
Note: W3C encourages groups adopt decision-making policies that promote consensus.
Joining a Community Group
Anyone may join any Community Group. There are no participation fees.
Resigning from a Community Group
W3C will provide a mechanism for Participants to resign from a Community Group. Participants that resign from a Community Group incur no new or further obligations after the date of resignation and maintain only those obligations already incurred, and that survive resignation from the Community Group, as provided in the Community Contributor License Agreement (CLA) and, when applicable, the Final Specification Agreement.
Community Group Chair(s)
Each Community Group must have at least one Chair who is responsible for ensuring the group fulfills the requirements of this document as well as the group’s operational agreements. The participants of the Group choose their Chair(s). The Chair(s) are also the primary contacts for the Community Development Lead.
Duration and Closure of a Community Group
Once a Community Group has been launched, participants may continue to work indefinitely, until the Community Development Lead closes the group; see the grounds for closure.
No less than ten business days before closing a group, the Community Development Lead must alert the participants. Once closed, no individuals may join, and discussions stop. However, W3C makes available information about closed Community Groups and archives of their communications.
Closed Community Groups are re-opened following the creation process.
Grounds for Closure of a Community Group
The Community Development Lead may close a Community Group in any of following circumstances:
- Chair Request. The Group Chair requests that the group be closed (e.g., as the result of a group decision, or on a certain date selected in advance by the group).
- Inactivity. The number of participants drops below 3 for an extended period, or because participant activity (e.g., as measured by communications among participants) ceases for an extended period.
- Agreement Violations. When, in the judgment of the Community Development Lead, the group has committed a serious violation of this policy, for instance exceeding its scope.
The Community Development Lead and Chair should discuss the group’s status before the Community Development Lead initiates closure.
Community Group Communications
Each Community Group will have both public and non-public communications mechanisms. The former are for work, the latter for administrative matters (e.g., personal information used in meeting planning).
To help Community Group participants adhere to the general communications policies, all participants (including the Chair) should help moderate discussion (for instance, to keep the group focused on relevant topics).
In order to help the community track process, each Community Group is encouraged to summarize accomplishments, barriers to progress, or other challenges from time to time.
All communications must be archived.
Community Group Branding
Any Community Group branding (e.g., use of W3C name or logo in ways that may confuse the state of standardization, or technology-specific logo development) is subject to review and approval by the Head of W3C Marketing and Communications.
Community Group Meeting Policies
A Community Group is not required to hold meetings. However, if it does, then the Chair must ensure that the following happens:
- the meeting is announced to the group in a timely fashion so that people can schedule attendance;
- an agenda is posted;
- meeting minutes are published, including topics discussions and decisions.
Community Group Deliverables
Community Group deliverables may be anything, including documents, test suites, tutorials, demos, code, discussion, etc. W3C will provide infrastructure to host discussions, code, specifications, test suites, and so on.
The label “Community Group Report” refers to any document produced by a Group. Some Community Group Reports are Specifications. The following rules apply to Specifications:
- drafts are governed by Community Contributor License Agreement (CLA). W3C will provide a template for including copyright information.
- they must include the name the group that published the deliverables and link to a public page about the group.
- they must include a publication date.
- the history of Contributions (as defined under the CLA) must be archived permanently on the W3C Web site.
- They must include boilerplate language required by W3C (e.g., notice that Contributions are made under the CLA and that certain conditions apply).
- The content and style of the Specification must not cause confusion about its status, in particular with respect to W3C Technical Reports.
The following rules apply to Final Specifications:
- when they are published, W3C issues a call for participants to sign the Final Specification Agreement.
- they must be available in English.
- they must be published on the W3C Web site.
- Once a Final Specification has been published at a given URI, the Specification must not change.
Other types of deliverables must be publicly available and must be archived permanently.
W3C reserves the right to refuse publication of deliverables, for instance if the material is likely to cause offense or confusion. W3C may publish additional policies to govern Community Group Specifications. W3C will provide style guides (and style sheets) for Specifications.
The Community Development Lead organizes a Community Council whose mission is:
- to promote the program and ensure that it functions smoothly, and
- to help the Community Development Lead fulfill the duties described in this document.
Initially the Community Development Lead selects the Council participants, with an emphasis on representation of diverse interests (public, W3C Membership, staff, other standards organizations, etc.). The Community Development Lead may develop other mechanisms for participant selection.
The Community Council works with existing groups in a variety of ways, including:
- Education of Community Group participants about doing work at W3C. This might involve creation of documentation, videos, or other tools. It might also involve chair training or providing good practice information to Chairs.
- Education of the broader community about the work done by Community Groups.
- Connections among groups that have shared interests. This might involve organizing joint meetings.
The Council promotes broad inclusion and participation by newcomers in a variety of ways, including:
- Promotion of the program in online fora, at events, and in new communities.
- Encouraging the creation of language-specific groups, international participation, and online meetings.
- Efforts that help avoid confusion with W3C’s standardization process (e.g., through videos or other materials that help explain how to do work at W3C).
Transition to W3C Standards Track
Some (but not all) Community Group and Business Group Specifications are expected to serve as input to a Working Group. When a Community Group or Business Group wishes for a Working Group to adopt one of its Specifications, W3C facilitates the transition to the W3C Standards Track in a number of ways:
- Continuity of IPR commitments. The W3C Community Final Specification Agreement is designed to ensure smooth transition of IPR commitments from Community Groups or Business Groups to Working Groups.
- Continuity of participation. When a Working Group takes up a Community Group or Business Group Specification, 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 W3C Community Final Specification Agreement.
- Adoption by an Existing Working Group. If W3C has chartered a Working Group with a scope that encompasses the deliverable of a Community Group, the Working Group may adopt it without needing to recharter. Working Group charters created to standardize a Community Group or Business Group Specifications are be reviewed by the Membership following the usual process.
See How to transition work from a Community Group to a Working Group for more information.
Parallel Activities between a Community Group and a Working Group
A Community Group may continue to exist after a Working Group has been chartered. The Community Group may wish to start experimenting with new ideas for a technology while the Working Group builds consensus and focuses on implementation of a stable set of agreed upon features.
W3C recommends that once a Working Group has taken up a Community Group or Business Group Specification, the Community or Business Group should no longer develop the same material in parallel. Working Group licensing commitments are limited to the deliverables of the Working Group, so commitments do not follow text that is taken up by other groups (Community Groups or Working Groups).
Business Groups are open to all (including companies, non-profits, government agencies, research institutes, individuals), but parties that are not W3C Members pay a fee to participate. That fee is less than W3C Membership and grants fewer benefits. Business Groups are designed to provide stakeholders in particular industries with a forum to develop industry-specific applications of Web technology, to create a strong liaison between a particular industry and the Web community, or to solve an industry-specific issue without an initial assumption of which Web technologies apply.
Business Group policies are the same as Community Groups except where noted below.
Creation of a Business Group
Business Groups are created in the same manner as Community Groups, except that a proposal is not complete until at least five Organizations support creation of the group. Because goal of Business Groups is to grow the W3C community, we expect Business Groups to have a mix of Member and non-Member Organizations and individuals.
Joining a Business Group
Joining a Business Group is the same as for a Community Group, except that:
- there is a participation fee (for organizations and individuals), and
- participants must also agree to the Business Group Agreement.
Business Group Communications
Each Business Group will have both public and non-public communications mechanisms. The participants decide which channel they use to conduct their work. If the group chooses to conduct its work on non-public channels, the group must maintain a public home page on the W3C site and must provide a public communication about their work at least every six months. This may take the form of a publication, a summary of work, or other form most suitable to keep the community informed of its progress.
Business Group Deliverables
Deliverables are the same as for Community Groups, except the published documents are called “Business Group Reports”.
Staff Involvement in Business Groups
Business Groups do not have staff contacts, but W3C management allocates a small percentage of staff time to consult to Business Groups and help them accomplish their goals.
- Business Group Chairs may request an annual review with W3C management and the technical staff, to share progress and gather feedback on technical direction.
- For Business Groups creating materials they intend as input to a Working Group (e.g., an industry-specific set of requirements), the staff will help to coordinate direct Chair-to-Chair communication.
Violations of these policies should be brought to the attention of the Community Development Lead. The Community Development Lead is authorized to ban participants for violations of this policy or the signed Agreements, and also to reinstate them. Banned participants may appeal to the Head of W3C Communications.
Summary of Copyright and Patent Policies for Community Groups
The legal policies designed for Community Groups seek to balance the concerns of both implementers and intellectual property (IPR) holders. This section gives an informative overview of the two license agreements involved:
All participant contributions to a Specification produced by the group are made available under a permissive copyright license that allows the creation of derivative works subject to attribution requirements.
A Business Group may choose to publish its document under the W3C Document Licence.
The patent policy has two steps:
- Contributor Agreement. A participant that makes a contribution to a specification produced by the group agrees to Royalty-Free patent licenses for the contribution. This commitment is governed by the W3C Community Contributor License Agreement (CLA). Note: The CLA provides patent rights only to individual Contributions. W3C will provide mechanisms for participants to indicate clearly their Contributions.
- Final Specification Agreement. When the group has completed work on the specification and wishes to promote broader deployment, the Chair issues a call for final commitments. Participants make voluntary Royalty-Free patent license commitments over the entire specification by
executing the W3C Community Final Specification Agreement. In addition, the Community Final Specification Agreement involves a commitment so that material that advances to W3C Recommendation also benefits (automatically) from a Royalty-Free commitment.
The two-step process is designed to:
- make it possible to start a group quickly, since organizations may not be required to evaluate portfolios against a scope statement.
- make it easier for organizations to join a group, since an organization’s initial commitment only extends to the organization’s own contributions.
- provide implementers with some patent protection during development of a specification, and patent protection for the final specification from those signing the Final Specification Agreement.
W3C has a preference for organizational, rather than individual commitments. Requests to participate in an individual capacity without a corresponding organizational commitment will be subject to approval by the W3C staff; such approval to be granted or denied in the W3C Staff’s sole discretion.
The policies do not define any patent disclosure obligations.
General Communications Policies
All Participants agree to the following general communications policies:
- Participants must have an identity within the community.
- Communications must not be disruptive. Participants must refrain from defaming, harassing or otherwise offending other participants or their organizations.
- Participants must not send unsolicited commercial messages or other promotional activities for personal matters or for third parties.
- Participants must respect confidentiality levels of communications.
- Community Development Lead
- The individual responsible for the Community Group program. The Community Development Lead, appointed by the W3C Management, is responsible for:
- Monitoring the W3C Forum
- Managing escalation of issues
- Managing the composition and operations of the Community Council
- Serving as liaison to the W3C Staff (e.g., for outreach opportunities)
- Community Council
- This task force assists existing community groups (e.g., in how the standards process works, accessibility input early in the development of the specification) and proactively seeks opportunities to engage with communities outside W3C, to find and communicate opportunities for liaisons.
- Community Submission
- Community Submissions are proposals made in the W3C Forum.
- Community Group or Business Group Report
- A Community or Business Group Report is a document (specification or other type) produced by a Community or Business Group.
- W3C Forum
- A single global public forum where anyone may begin to generate interest around new ideas.