W3C's 'Moral Majesty'

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at simonstl.com
Sun Sep 19 20:58:27 BST 1999

At 07:06 PM 9/19/99 +0100, Dan Brickley wrote:
>On Sun, 19 Sep 1999, Steven R. Newcomb wrote:
>> [...] The W3C is a software vendor consortium; people (including W3C
>> members) who believe otherwise are deluding themselves. 
>I'm sorry, I can't let this one just slip past. As Bristol University's
>Advisory Committee representative to W3C, I can assure you that agendas
>other than software vending are represented. Bristol University may be
>many things, and there are many groups here who do produce saleable
>software, but we're not software vendors. We joined W3C to participate
>in the development of specifications that affect teaching, learning and
>research applications in our *.ac.uk environment. And we're not alone
>in this...

While Dan is right - there are in fact customer organizations, even
non-profit customer organizations, with representation and participation at
the W3C - Steven's point still holds a lot of water, if not quite as much
as before.

One key area of 'consumers' that I don't see represented as W3C members is
open source software developers, which almost by definition don't have the
resources to pay the fees.  (There are, admittedly, some very wealthy open
source developers - I don't count myself among them.)  Even more formal
organizations like the Apache Group don't appear to be represented (last I
checked).  IBM develops some open source software, even important open
source software, but I think they're something of a special case, to say
the least.

There doesn't appear to be any way to get into the W3C by sweat equity,
unless of course a group wants to invite you into the process as an invited
expert.  Invited expert invitations don't have any direct connection to
sweat, however - as Steven pointed out earlier, it's a matter of being
_invited_, not of _earning_ a seat at the table.

Also, as Tim Berners-Lee pointed out, invited experts must pledge
"commitment of effort and acceptance of the charter".  Acceptance of the
charter implies accepting all the secrecy that goes along with the W3C's
activities, something I wouldn't accept - and something that seems deeply
incompatible with the open participation principle underlying most open
source projects.  If the 'top people' in a project can participate at the
W3C, they're still hampered from taking advantage of the full power of
their development base by the rules keeping them from sharing information
on W3C activities.

(I realize that the W3C itself operates several excellent open-source
projects. Unfortunately, this work does not seem to have had an effect on
the approach taken by the main body of W3C activities.)

The tumult and chaos of the browser wars seem to have numbed many
developers into accepting the W3C's status uncritically, but I don't know
how long that acceptance will last.  Opening participation significantly
would seem to give the W3C a lot more legitimacy heading into the future,
although it would certainly increase the pressure for accountability by the

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer (2nd Ed - September)
Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical
Sharing Bandwidth / Cookies

xml-dev: A list for W3C XML Developers. To post, mailto:xml-dev at ic.ac.uk
Archived as: http://www.lists.ic.ac.uk/hypermail/xml-dev/ and on CD-ROM/ISBN 981-02-3594-1
To (un)subscribe, mailto:majordomo at ic.ac.uk the following message;
(un)subscribe xml-dev
To subscribe to the digests, mailto:majordomo at ic.ac.uk the following message;
subscribe xml-dev-digest
List coordinator, Henry Rzepa (mailto:rzepa at ic.ac.uk)

More information about the Xml-dev mailing list