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Initial draft for discussion by DanBri, 2009-03-03. Feedback to please...

Please see successor, which refines this text:

See also prior work:


Social Web - a Community Crossroads

This is a proposal for a cheap and cheerful W3C Incubator group that will foster and track collaborations around standards for the Social Web. See for background on W3C incubators.

this is the draft charter proposal for discussion:

We are an Incubator group within the W3C community devoted to Social Web topics. These include describing and identifying people, groups and organizations in extensible and privacy respecting ways. They also touch on issues such as widget platforms (such as OpenSocial, Facebook and W3C Widgets), as well as new user-facing technology such as OpenID and OAuth. The group is concerned also with the extensibility of Social Web descriptive schemas, so that the ability of Web users to describe themselves and their interests are not limited by the imagination of software engineers or Web site creators. Some of these technologies are independent projects, some are at the IETF, W3C or elsewhere. Users of the Web shouldn't have to care. The purpose of this group is to provide a lightweight environment designed to foster and report on collaborations, rather than to attempt to anticipate detailed deliverables.

As a W3C Incubator group, our primary responsibility is to produce a final report summarising our discussions, and proposing a way forward. However we also expect that the members of our group will produce many other artifacts (proposals, code, mappings, research). Many of these will be developed in a W3C-hosted wiki. Others may be created elsewhere, with snapshots archived at for reference. At the discretion of the chairs, collaboratively produced work from members of the group may be proposed for publication on

Our goal is to provide a forum through which collaborations relating to social web standards can be formed, and through which the results of practical standards-oriented collaborations can be reported and discussed. This is not a Working Group, although the members of the group are free to undertake work together and to report it and discuss it within the group.

Every 2 weeks, we will meet, either in irc or, sometimes, on the telephone (w3c's zakim bridge). An agenda will be circulated in advance by the chairs, and a scribe / reporter nominated. During the meeting, we will split our time between chasing up the actions that group members have previously committed to, hearing short reports-from-the-field from members who are actively creating, testing or integrating standards-based social web systems, and debating the priorites we, current w3c groups, and future W3C (and other) groups should have.

We actively seek collaboration and participation from the wider Web community. The chairs will strive to make sure that W3C membership is not a problem for independent, student and low-wage members, while noting that employees of larger companies are typically expected by W3C to encourage their employer to join W3C. We expect W3C to be generous with the provision of Invited Expert status.

We will not be starting from scratch. We hope to hear from members of w3c groups such as the widgets, HTML5, Semantic Web, eGov, privacy, security and accessibility efforts. We hope to hear a lot from members of the OpenID, OAuth, PortableContacts and OpenSocial communities, as well as from those with experience evaluating the accessibility, privacy and usability aspects of these technologies.

Participation from the mobile web industry is critically important too. we expect widget platforms and their apis (eg. addressbook, geo/loc) to be a key point of intersection between desktop and web widget platforms, and we may devote significant time to discussion of this work.

Other technology groups we hope to engage include microblogging (eg. twitter,, microformats, XMPP/Jabber. it would be nice if Facebook and similar sites could spare the time to talk here about the complex interplay between data portability and user privacy concerns. We expect active involvement from It is important to note that each of these groups has a distinctive style and approach to collaborative work; for example, the Microformats effort is wiki-based, with minimalistic use of email lists and no telephone conferences. Since this incubator is designed to foster collaboration between groups, we may need to vary our communication tools depending on the current topic of discussion.

Our sole formal deliverable is a report, due at month 12, to w3c and to the web community. this report will cover:

  • summary of the entire technology landscape relating to social web, including protocols under development
  • summary of state of schema interop and extensibility between platforms and environments
  • summary of key user-facing problems with the current situation; case studies, scenarios etc to guide improvements
  • proposals for actions (standards-making, code-making, workshops, discussion) to improve the situation

In addition to the final report, SocialWeb XG members are encouraged to form ad-hoc collaborations. If such efforts are to be considered the activities of the group, then the following criteria should be met:

  • XG discussions and collaborations are conducted in public
  • significant ad-hoc telephone / skype / IM discussions should be minuted, with public summary by archived email within 5 working days

A W3C-hosted wiki area will be identified to help support such activities.

In addition, members of the XG may be collaborating in other fora. These could be private, closed, etc. Nevertheless, the public results of such collaborations are of interest to the group, but will be treated as efforts external to the XG.

During 13 months of operation, the group is likely to meet 20-25 times at most. This schedule leaves room for most of the standards-related initiatives mentioned here to present to the XG. We hope to see a mix of in-depth presentations, technical reviews, and debates. The intent is for these to foster collaborative efforts (indicative examples: OAuth for W3C Widgets; Accessibility of OpenSocial; combination of RDFa and hCard/XFN; mobile addressbook APIs; internationalisation and inclusiveness of addressbook schemas) which can then report back to the wider group through the remainder of the year.