confidentiality in W3C WGs

Hunter, David dhunter at
Fri Sep 10 17:55:02 BST 1999

From: Reynolds, Gregg [mailto:greynolds at]
Sent: Friday, September 10, 1999 11:05 AM
> The situation you describe certainly could happen, but I 
> respectfully submit
> that the possibility of such situations arising would be a 
> very bad reason
> indeed for the confidentiality agreement, at least from the 
> perspective of
> the "web community".  The W3C should not provide a cloak of 
> secrecy for
> companies who do not want to cooperate or who subvert the 
> standards process
> for their own ends.  Of course, we can take it as axiomatic 
> that private,
> for-profit corporations will do everything they can to use 
> the W3C to their
> advantage, and to the detremint of their competitors - that's 
> their job,
> after all.  All the more reason to insist on openness and candor.

Actually, if I understand things properly, the "cloak of secrecy" is not to
protect the companies who don't want to cooperate, but to protect the ones
who DO.  Members of the working groups, as things stand now, are free to
agree or disagree with anything said on its technological merits, without
having to worry about the political consequences of such agreement or
disagreement.  (Members from Company A can disagree with points that Company
B makes, without having to worry about people thinking that it's only
because they are competitors.  Members from Company A can also agree with
points that Company B makes, without having to worry about people thinking
that some kind of battle has been won by B.)

Again, who said what IS NOT IMPORTANT.  Nobody in the world needs to know
WHO it was that said it.  The problem is that nobody knows WHAT was said.  I
don't need to know who's idea it was to give XHTML three namespaces.  But I
really need to know why XHTML was given three namespaces.

A lot of people keep viewing the W3C as if Microsoft and Netscape and Sun
and the other big players were trying to battle for power behind the closed
doors; if this or that technology gets recommended then Microsoft won, but
if that one does, then Netscape won...  And yet W3C members tell us time and
time again that on a working group, nobody is more important than anyone
else.  They just don't have the kind of clout inside the W3C to make these
power struggles, even if they wanted to.

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