W3C's 'Moral Majesty'

Steven R. Newcomb srn at techno.com
Sun Sep 19 19:18:39 BST 1999

[Tim Berners-Lee:]

> It is not a question of membership in W3C - as there is a way (as
> you found) for non-members to come to meetings as invited experts -
> the criterion is commitment of effort and acceptance of the charter.

No, these are not the governing criteria, as you of all people know
best, Tim.  The actual criterion on which invitations are based is
whether or not you're invited.  No number of requests to be invited,
presentations of credentials, commitments of effort, or acceptances of
a charter can overcome the problem of not being invited.

Today, the W3C process is not an open process, and it's not a system
that ordinary people can get involved in and "change from within".
The W3C process is the (rather unwieldy) tool of the dominant software
vendors, balanced against the flawed personal vision and absolute veto
power of its Director, a single human being named Tim Berners-Lee.
The institutional structure of the W3C was not designed to serve the
public interest, and even the most cursory analysis reveals that there
is little reason to expect it to create standards that are optimized
for serving the public interest.  Everyone involved primarily serves
special interests, and the public is neither invited nor involved in
any meaningfully institutionalized fashion.  The W3C is a software
vendor consortium; people (including W3C members) who believe
otherwise are deluding themselves.  With the exception of XML 1.0
(which itself is rapidly being subverted via XML Namespaces, etc.),
W3C standards always leave room for the products of software vendors
to become indispensable to the usefulness of particular pieces of
information.  The idea that the role of software is the central
organizing feature of information interchange standards is contrary to
the public interest.  Software is ephemeral, while information is
eternal.  Everyone owns information, while only software vendors own

The idea of polluting all information with names from namespaces whose
semantics and syntactic constraints are expressed by the behavior of a
particular hunk of software is an idea that is consistent with the
welfare of software vendors.  It is not consistent with the welfare of
information owners; they won't be able to buy software from the lowest
bidder.  The public consists of information owners, not software


Steven R. Newcomb, President, TechnoTeacher, Inc.
srn at techno.com  http://www.techno.com  ftp.techno.com

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