AB/Director-free Plan

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Operational Plan for the Director-free Project


The AB is working towards defining how the W3C will operate once its founding Director, Tim Berners Lee, steps down. This is expected to happen in the next few years. W3C governing documents and practices frequently give the Director a special role, so the AB has started this project to identify such dependencies on the Director, to propose alternative approaches, and ultimately to get decisions on them, so that the way forward can be clear and the transition orderly.

Early in the project, a broad survey of the responsibilities of the Director was conducted, as documented extensively in https://www.w3.org/Member/Board/wiki/Role_of_the_Director. Having categorized and discussed desirable replacements for these various responsibilities, the AB is working towards a model where the Director would not be replaced by an equivalent position after having stepped down, and instead his various responsibilities are to be redistributed to other individuals or groups within the W3C community, either existing or created for that purpose.

This document is intended to document the plan towards defining, then enacting a director-free W3C. It is not a detailed exploration of each topic and their solution. Such things should be linked to from here, but the details should be documented elsewhere.

Aside from formal roles that the Director has in the W3C Process, the Director plays a larger role within W3C. We turn to the Director for strategic vision and direction. We turn to the Director for an expression of W3C values. Those roles must be addressed as well.

This project is not intended to limit what changes to the W3C governance can or should be undertaken. Desirable changes to the role(s) of the Director can be raised independently and addressed faster if there is consensus on them. Other changes to the balance of responsibilities, if desired, can also be raised and be addressed when there is consensus.

Relevant Material

The following material is relevant to this discussion, being either proposals, issues to be addressed, or documents to be reviewed and possibly updated or replaced.

A. Director-free branch of the W3C Process: This document represents the Working Draft of a director-free Process Document that the AB has been developing.
   branch in github
   built preview of that branch
   diff against the main branch
   Note: this is currently somewhat stale; not all resolutions have been applied.
B. Issues about the W3C Process:

Several of these issues, particularly in B.1. that are actually compound-issues. To the extent that proposers feel that progress can be made on individual issues separately, it would be helpful if those issues be separated out for ease-of-processing. Some might need to remain as compound issues.

B.1. Issues inviting a fundamental rethink
     These issues generally are at variance with the major thrust of the Working Draft in A above.
     See detailed discussion at https://www.w3.org/wiki/AB/Director-free_Plan/B1
B.2. Issues about W3C Council and Formal Objection handling
B.3. Issues about TAG Appointments
     See also historical document about various roles on TAG appointment committee
B.4. Miscellaneous other issues
C. Patent Policy
  The Director has a role in PAGs, essentially unchanged between the 2017 and 2020 Patent policies.
  - PP2017
  - PP2020 draft
  Note: there is currently no official place to track issues about the patent policy, but in the meanwhile this has been filed at https://github.com/w3c/AB-private/issues/129
D. The updated Member agreement and new Partner agreement created for the legal entity should not mention Director (unless necessary).
  - Existing member agreement
  - Existing Appendix 1 to both the host and member agreements
E. There are various informative mentions of the role of the Director in /Guide
F. The director has a deciding role in the public statement guidelines
G. The director has a deciding role in external funding guidelines 
H. The best practices document for formal objections needs tuning. Related to B2.
   Related AB issues:
I. The Director has authority in the WHATWG MoU
   There is a standing resolution to assign this to the Council.

In addition, a number of policies enacted over the years and still active today may mention the Director in one role or another. Anyone becoming aware of any such policy should list bring it to the attention of the AB and list it here, so that it can be investigated:

  • J. Who acts for the Director to formally vet and propose items for the Membership? For example, W3M used Director delegation to assume that role for the BLM statement.
  • K. Disputes in the technical development process. Today, the team is a gatekeeper for the Director - telling WGs if their work is ready to advance in maturity (e.g. evaluating normative references). In the future, if there is a dispute between the gatekeeper and the WG - how is that resolved?
  • L. Who manages W3C's normative references policy?
  • M. Easing into director-free. The presumed W3C Council should take on some major controversial issue in W3C and get practice acting as a Director - driving forward progress for the issue. Examples could be: MiniApps Roadmap; WebAdvertising Roadmap; Privacy issues and opportunities.
  • N. The broader question of how to replace the Director as provider of strategic vision and direction; and the one who states W3C Values

Assignments / Todo

To organize the work, the AB needs to develop a plan forward. Some topics require discussion in the AB acting as the WG for this project. Other work might be assigned to smaller teams to come back to the AB, or delegated entirely. This table provides an initial view.

Code Description Needs plenary AB meeting Can make async progress with report back to AB Has pending edits Delegate
A Director-free branch Yes Yes
B.1 Fundamental issues about director-free Yes ?
B.2 W3C Council / Formal Objection handling Yes Under AB direction Yes
B.3 TAG Appointments Yes Under AB direction Yes
B.4 Other Process issues Yes Delegated by AB to Florian Rivoal on 24 September 2020
C Patent Policy / PAGs Yes ? maybe to PSIG, but needs AB discussion first
D Member agreement and Partner agreement to Legal@team, then reviewed by AB
E /Guide to Team, only come back to AB in case of problem. Team has assigned to PLH.
F Public statement guidelines Yes Delegated by AB to Jeff Jaffe on 24 September 2020
G External Funding Guidelines Yes Delegated by AB to Jeff Jaffe and Chris Wilson on 24 September 2020
H Best Practices for Formal Objections Yes Under AB Direction
I WhatWG MoU Yes Delegated by AB to Jeff Jaffe and Chris Wilson on 24 September 2020. It was noted that the BoD might have a role here.
J Vet and propose topics for Membership Yes
K Disputes in technical development process Yes Delegated by AB to Ralph Swick, Elika Etimad, Florian Rivoal on 24 September 2020.
L Normative references policy Yes Delegated by AB to Ralph Swick, Elika Etimad, Florian Rivoal on 24 September 2020.
M Easing into Director-Free Yes The AB resolved on 24 September 2020 that PLH should experiment with running the W3C Council process for a current Device and Sensors Charter Formal Objection as Staff Contact as best he can with assistance from TAG and AB.
N Broader Director role Yes


  1. Rebase director-free branch on top of Process 2020 (done)
  2. Update director-free branch based on agreed resolutions
  3. Between Summer 2020 F2F and Fall 2020 F2F, some of the delegated and offline work may be started.
  4. In Fall 2020 F2F we will thoroughly discuss and attempt to close all issues in B.1. (Rationale, we really can't make progress on subsidiary issues unless we close B.1. We kinda closed B.1. in February, but didn't do it officially and now have a new AB.)
  5. In Fall 2020 F2F we will try to identify a work program for M.
  6. In Fall 2020 F2F we assigned out B.4, F, G, I, K, and L. We also decided to postpone J for now
  7. In Winter F2F we will compare different high level approaches (W3C Council, W3C Directorate, Technical Director, Decision by AC)
  8. In Winter F2F we get reports on B.4, D, E, F, G, I, K, and L.
  9. In Winter F2f we try to frame and assign the issues in B.2, B.3, C, H, and N.
  10. We imagine that director-free is targeted to be the next rev of the process after Process 2021 (presumably it will be Process 2022)