Alternatives to the W3C

Simon St.Laurent simonstl at
Mon Jan 17 15:12:47 GMT 2000

At 10:36 PM 1/16/00 -0800, Lee Anne Phillips pointed out:
>At Monday 1/17/00 02:01 AM -0500, Michael Champion wrote:
>>This is not to say that there should not be a truly open Web standards
>>organization.  Such a thing might function well as an association of
>>individual technical experts (representing themselves rather than speaking
>>for their employers), e.g. the ad hoc group that produced SAX.  I suspect
>>that such a process can produce quick and simple standards that put a
>>minimum amount of order in place where none existed, or to agree on subsets
>>of existing specs that we can all REALLY support.  But when it comes to the
>>really nasty questions that are as much political and economic as technical,
>>such an organization would have no way of getting its result to be adopted.

Given that the W3C's 'real' authority seems to be moral - Tim Berners-Lee's
historic moment creating HTML and HTTP gives him enough authority to lead a
consortium of feuding vendors, and that the W3C does virtually nothing to
enforce standards conformance on vendors, I think this last sentence can be
safely ignored.

The main difficulty with any non-vendor organization purporting to set
standards of any kind is getting them adopted.  In the IETF model, this is
pretty much accepted as a problem for individual standards to deal with -
running code is an important part of the process, as is the need for two
different interoperable implementations.

Some amount of wasted work is unavoidable - see, for instance, the very few
implementations of SMIL 1.0 (vendor resistance, apparently), the halting of
http-ng, and a few thousand other pieces of roadkill along the side of the

Is there any chance of forming the ad hoc group that Michael describes
above, using as open a model as possible?  The IETF and the W3C appear to
have moved beyond their cease-fire to a peace treaty, so I don't think the
IETF is an option for such work.  Similarly, it's not clear that OASIS
(which charges fees, but at least the level is much lower) would be
interested in work that might well compete with W3C initiatives.

The kinds of projects suggested above - subsetting and filling holes in
existing specs - seem like a good place to get started, and see what
happens from there.

Simon St.Laurent
XML Elements of Style / XML: A Primer, 2nd Ed.
Building XML Applications
Inside XML DTDs: Scientific and Technical
Cookies / Sharing Bandwidth

xml-dev: A list for W3C XML Developers. To post, mailto:xml-dev at
Archived as: or CD-ROM/ISBN 981-02-3594-1
Please note: New list subscriptions now closed in preparation for transfer to OASIS.

More information about the Xml-dev mailing list