I joined the W3C staff in 1997 as a technical writer. My first assignment was to work on the W3C Process Document, which describes how W3C turns ideas into standards. My understanding of what happened before I arrived is that W3C Members had begun in 1996 to demand a more formal description of how the organization would work. A committee was formed to draw up the document. I began to edit it mid-1997, and, we adopted the first Process Document for W3C on 11 November 1999.

The principles that we would later formalize with our peers as OpenStand Principles were apparent even in our first process document. Here are a few examples:

  • Consensus: Declared “Integral to the W3C process” right from the start.
  • Transparency: The process required public versions of documents at least every three months. This requirement was put in place because in the early days many W3C Working Groups did not conduct their discussions on public mailing lists. Today groups conduct their technical discussions in public.
  • Availability: All formal publications from draft to standard have always been publicly available at no cost.

I remained editor through the 2005 revision, which remained the operative W3C process for 9 years until we (finally!) replaced it in August 2014.

The Process Document is an important manifestation of our organizational vision. For 20 years, W3C has sought to create an environment where competitors collaborate with respect and due process. We have stumbled at times, but as a result have become more transparent, inclusive, and effective, essentially growing into the OpenStand principles (see our 2012 self-evaluation). We are actively expanding and evolving today, keeping OpenStand principles in mind as we go, as CEO Jeff Jaffe did this week in a blog post, Decision by consensus or by informed editor; which is better?

We will mark W3C’s 20th anniversary on 29 October with a Symposium and Gala Dinner in Santa Clara, California. Please join us as we discuss the future of the organization, as well as the future of the Web.




This blog post was written by Ian Jacobs. He is the Head of W3C Marketing and Communications. He has a background in software engineering, spent 7 years writing Web standards at W3C, and has been in his current role for 10 years.