World Wide Web Consortium

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World Wide Web Consortium
Logo of the W3C
purpose Standardization body for the World Wide Web
Chair: Tim Berners-Lee
Establishment date: October 1994
Employee 61 (2018)
Seat : MIT (United States),
ERCIM (Europe),
Keiō University (Asia)
and regional offices around the world

The World Wide Web Consortium ( W3C for short ) is the body for the standardization of technologies in the World Wide Web . It was founded on October 1, 1994 at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science in Cambridge, Massachusetts .

The W3C is a member organization. The founder and chairman is Tim Berners-Lee , who is considered to be the inventor of the World Wide Web. The W3C develops technical specifications and guidelines in a mature, transparent process in order to achieve maximum consensus on the content of technical protocols, high technical and editorial quality and approval by the W3C and its constituencies.

Examples of technologies standardized by the W3C are HTML , XHTML , XML , RDF , OWL , CSS , SVG and WCAG .

The German-Austrian office has been based at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) in Berlin since January 2011 .


The history of the W3C is closely linked to the development of the WWW. Founder Tim Berners-Lee was aware that the inconsistent use of the URI , HTTP and HTML technologies could lead to links ineffective and thus render the WWW useless. That is why he wanted to have the specifications for these technologies standardized by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

After an IETF meeting in Boston in 1992 , a WWW-specific working group was founded, but it was unable to publish any useful standards. At the same time, more and more web browsers were being developed, as a result of which Berners-Lee thought more intensively about a body that controls the evolution of the web. This should also prevent the web from being subdivided into different sub-webs - with either commercial or academic orientation - and instead retaining its universal character.

The W3C was then not at CERN  - the place of origin of the WWW - but with its collaboration at LCS | MIT founded (now renamed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory [MIT / CSAIL] , CSAIL for short ). The US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) and the European Commission also supported the project. The W3C should find the lowest common denominator of a technology from the start and process it into a specification so that it is supported by all member organizations. In order to emphasize the internationality of the WWW, other hosts on different continents should be added in addition to MIT.

The Institut national de recherche en informatique et en automatique (INRIA) became the European host of the W3C in April 1995, but was replaced in 2003 by the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM). The Keio University (Japan) was first in 1996 Asian host organization. The Beihang University in China is now one of them. In addition, offices around the world support the activities of the W3C.


Between 70 and 80 people work for the W3C, leading the organizational processes and mostly employed in one of the four host organizations. The W3C is also supported by its member organizations. 425 organizations are currently members of the W3C. In addition, there are the many volunteers who take part in the discussion processes of the mailing lists, translate recommendations, write implementations of specifications and publish them as open source, participate in working groups or otherwise get involved in the W3C.

The W3C is financed through contributions from member organizations and voluntary donations. It was not until the end of 2009 that the Internet Society (ISOC) - the umbrella organization of the IETF - confirmed that it would donate an amount of 2.5 million US dollars over the next three years to the W3C.

In addition to the three host organizations MIT, ERCIM and Keio University, which are dedicated to administrative activities, offices around the world complement the work of the W3C. These have the task of raising awareness of standards and the W3C on the one hand and:

  • Addressing interest groups and promoting relationships with regional politics and business
  • Support regional W3C members
  • To give feedback on issues relating to the region
  • To promote the regional acceptance of W3C standards, with particular reference to regionally specific cultural subjects
  • Dissemination of translations of the W3C recommendations

The regional office uses various communication options, such as its own website, newsletter, brochures or conferences. The offices are hosted by business-neutral member organizations of the W3C (mostly universities or research institutions).


Any type of organization - be it commercial enterprise , governmental or non-governmental organization , university or research institution  - can join the W3C. The membership fee to be paid is based on the form and country of origin of the potential participant. The entire organization counts as an independent member, so no subsidiaries can become separate members of the W3C. This can lead to a decline in membership if z. B. Merge companies.

There is a tool on the W3C homepage that automatically calculates the annual contribution based on the type and country of origin of the organization.

Employees from the individual organizations take part in the working groups in which recommendations are developed. In addition, each member has the right to a seat on the advisory committee of the W3C as well as the right to submit proposals in order to actively intervene in the development processes surrounding the W3C.

Since the beginning of the 2010s, the W3C has been working more closely with its members, especially in light of the criticism of the HTML standard. The highlight so far is the establishment of a platform based on MediaWiki and Semantic MediaWiki called Web Platform Docs , which is operated jointly with Apple , Facebook and Google .

In March 2019, the Wikimedia Foundation announced its entry into the W3C.


Even if the W3C has produced numerous de facto standards, the W3C is not an internationally recognized organization and therefore, strictly speaking, not authorized to set ISO standards , for example . (Nevertheless, W3C standards, such as XML, form the basis of some ISO standards).

The W3C calls his standards - to its non-official character to match - W3C Recommendations, so W3C Recommendations . In order to improve cooperation with international standardization bodies such as the ISO, the W3C endeavors to use transposition processes such as PAS or Fast Track so that the recommendations receive the status of an international standard more quickly.

In addition, the W3C has a second document class, W3C Note , i.e. W3C Notes .

During its development, the W3C made itself a requirement to only use technologies whose use - as part of the implementation of a W3C recommendation - is free of patent fees . Details can be found in the W3C's patent policy.


The preliminary stages in the development process of a W3C recommendation are the working draft , the last call working draft , the candidate recommendation and the proposed recommendation . A recommendation will continue Corrections released, and it may be a new edition of a recommendation issued (for example, there is XML - Recommendation currently in its fifth edition). If necessary, recommendations can also be withdrawn for revision.

Furthermore, it is possible to downgrade the preliminary stages of the recommendations to the level of the working draft. The W3C also publishes notes without any normative claim.

The recommendations should not be viewed as teaching materials for W3C technologies. Instead, they represent a kind of instruction that allows a technology to be implemented in a standardized manner. As a result, these documents are often difficult to understand or informative for laypeople - due to their very own language. A special tutorial is recommended for users at the application level who want to dig deeper into W3C technologies . The aforementioned notes can also be used for this purpose, as they are more like a tutorial due to their exploratory nature.

In contrast to the IETF's Request for Comments (RFC), for example, with the W3C all documents - from the first working draft to the final recommendation - are also available online after the standardization process. Furthermore, the standardization path can be easily traced within a document using various links. The right holders of all documents, including the finished recommendations, are always the hosts: MIT, ERCIM and Keio University. In the following, the individual steps in the development process for a recommendation are described. The development process up to a recommendation is also documented on the W3C website.

  • Working Draft and Last Call Working Draft

The working draft is the first stage in the standardization process of a W3C recommendation. It is available for comment by the public, W3C members and all other interested organizations. As a rule, several working drafts are developed, but not everyone makes it to the recommendation. The Last Call Working Draft ( German  last call ) is intended to signal that it is the planned last working draft .

  • Candidate Recommendation

The candidate recommendation largely completes the actual work on the document, which means that the supervising working group has integrated all technical requirements into the document. In this status, implementations of the technology are already possible and also required, with the experience gained from the implementations being incorporated into further documents.

  • Proposed Recommendation

The proposed recommendation is a document supplemented by the first implementations and at the same time the last stage in the development process for the recommendation. The proposal will be sent to the advisory committee of the W3C. After approval by the members and the chairman, it acquires the status of a recommendation.


These recommendations have been or are being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium:

All recommendations and working drafts are available on the W3C website.


In the c't issue 1/2007, the journalist Herbert Braun summarizes a “crisis of the W3C” due to “standards that are unrelated to practice and that have been delayed for years”.

He particularly goes into the role of the HTML standard, the scope of which has not been expanded since December 1997. The recommendations for XHTML cannot solve this problem either, since version 1 offers stricter rules, but no new functions. XHTML2, on the other hand, is too complex and not downwardly compatible.

In addition, the standardization processes at the W3C have become more complex, which means that processes are slowing down. Håkon Wium Lie - Chief Technology Officer at Opera Software - gives the following opinion in an interview on the article:

“Second, W3C has also evolved. In the early days, turning a Working Draft into a Recommendation was a simple month-long stint as Proposed Recommendation. These days, you have to issue call for comments, answer all the comments, make sure there are two implementations, and so forth. The formal process has become much longer and only specifications that have serious backers end up as Recommendations. "

“On the other hand, the W3C has developed. In the old days it was a matter of a few months to turn a working draft into a recommendation. Today you have to call for comments, answer all those comments, make sure there are two implementations, and so on. The formal process takes much longer and only specifications with serious proponents make it to recommendation. "

- Håkon Wium Lie

In his article, Braun also deals with the organizational structure itself by criticizing the dominance and influence of large wireless and software companies.

On September 18, 2017, the W3C consortium decided to introduce the DRM system Encrypted Media Extensions EME as a web standard. This is the first time that a proprietary standard has found its way into browsers that can theoretically be programmed completely as free software . In protest against this move, the Electronic Frontier Foundation resigned from the W3C on the same day:

“You have to search long and hard to find an independent technologist who believes that DRM is possible, let alone a good idea. Yet, somewhere along the way, the business values ​​of those outside the web got important enough, and the values ​​of technologists who built it got disposable enough, that even the wise elders who make our standards voted for something they know to be a fool's errand . ”

“It takes a long search to find an independent technologist who believes DRM is feasible or even a good idea. Yet, over time, the business interests of those outside the web became important enough and the values ​​of the technologists who made it expendable enough that even the wise ancients who make our standards voted for what they know is pointless Undertaking is. "

Previously, the sole editing right for the HTML5 draft by the Google employee Ian Hickson had long been deprecated.

In October 2017, the Austrian negative Big Brother Award in the category authorities and administration was given to the W3C for the introduction of EME as a web standard.

See also

Web links

Commons : W3C  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Summary of the standardization process (accessed January 5, 2017).
  2. Berners-Lee, Tim (1999): The Web Report. Munich: Econ, p. 86ff ISBN 3-430-11468-3 .
  3. Press release on the relocation of the W3C from INRIA to ERCIM (accessed on November 15, 2010).
  4. ^ History of the W3C (accessed September 15, 2015).
  5. Overview of all employees and their activities (English, accessed on January 5, 2017).
  6. Current Members - W3C
  7. ^ Organization of the W3C (accessed January 5, 2017).
  8. ^ Announcement from Heise Online about the donation from ISOC to the W3C (accessed on November 15, 2010).
  9. ^ Task of the regional W3C offices (English, accessed on January 5, 2017).
  10. Tool for calculating the annual membership fees (English, accessed on January 5, 2017).
  11. About W3C Membership (accessed January 5, 2017).
  12. Yvonne Ortmann: Apple, Facebook, Google & Co start open platform for web developers. (No longer available online.) In: t3n magazine . October 9, 2012, archived from the original on October 11, 2012 ; Retrieved October 9, 2012 .
  13. ^ Gilles Dubuc: Joining the World Wide Web Consortium. In: March 28, 2019, accessed April 1, 2019 .
  14. Summary of the W3C patent policy (accessed January 5, 2017).
  15. ^ Development process of the technical reports of the W3C (English, accessed on January 5, 2010).
  16. Standards and working drafts of the W3C (English, accessed on January 5, 2017).
  17. a b Herbert Braun: Web standards in transition - The crisis of the W3C and the possible solutions . In: c't . No. 1 , 2007, p. 162-169 ( abstract ).
  18. Interview by Herbert Braun with Håkon Wium Lie (accessed November 15, 2010).
  19. Encrypted Media Extensions: W3C Recommendation September 18, 2017. W3C, September 18, 2017, accessed on September 19, 2017 (English).
  20. ^ Cory Doctorow: An open letter to the W3C Director, CEO, team and membership. Electronic Frontier Foundation, September 18, 2017, accessed September 19, 2017 .
  21. Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka received the Big Brother Award. In: October 26, 2017. Retrieved October 26, 2017 .