It's all about standards. XHTML, XML, HTTP, FTP... what would we do without them? But who makes these standards standard? Today we take a look at the organizations that make these standards and what their role is the creation of tomorrow's Internet.
If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body... - The World Wide Web Consortium (Page 5 of 6 )
Quite possibly the most well know standards organization outside the IEEE, the W3C has been around since 1994, when it was formed by the man who made the Internet as we know it possible, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The W3C designs Web specifications, guidelines, software, and tools to make use of the full potential of the Web, and coordinates initiatives with other standards bodies. It also promotes the use of its recommended specifications and aims to satisfy enough of the software development community to ensure that the protocols and standards developed do not become obsolete. These standards, like XML, for example, are essential for different businesses and systems to integrate and interoperate effectively. The W3C focuses its attention on open standards.
Note: “Open standards” means that anyone can use them, free of charge. HTML is an open specification, so if you want to create a Web page, you don't have to pay anyone for the privilege. Flash on the other hand is a proprietary, or closed standard. If you want to create a Flash file, you have to purchase the software used to create it from Macromedia.
The W3C defines its main long-term goals as:
Making the Web accessible to all by promoting technologies that take into account differences in culture, language, education, ability, material resource, accessing devices, and physical limitations of users on all continents.
Developing a software environment that lets every user make the best use of the resources available on the web.
To guide the Web's development with careful consideration of legal, commercial and social issues.
They do have other design goals, seven in total, but these three seem to be their core aims.
The W3C is made up of around 70 people working in W3C offices around the globe and technical representatives from its 400+ member companies, and to a lesser degree, anyone from the public that wants to get involved. The process for developing a new standard is basically as follows: members, or the W3C team, express interest in a particular development. The director of W3C then decides whether or not the proposal is valid and has enough interest in it. Working groups made up of technical members or invited experts are formed. Drafts and working drafts documenting the proposed standards are released. Coordination groups help direct the working groups and coordinate between other groups or bodies that may be involved, such as the IETF. Once the specification has been thoroughly tested and commented on by interest groups and other members, the draft is released as a fully working recommendation. I'm sure that in reality, the process follows a path with many more winding turns, but in a nutshell, as far as any outsider is concerned, this pretty much sums it up.
In addition to leading the Web in a cross-platform, cross-browser, cross-vendor direction, the W3C also offer services such as HTML and XML validation and educational tutorials.