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The W3C Process

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Every once in a while when someone gets frustrated by the lack of browser support for standards such as HTML and CSS (mostly CSS), the W3C is yelled at for being too slow. I think itís a little unfair. Sure, the process of writing a W3C specification may in fact be too slow. It can (and does) take years. It would be nice if that could be sped up a bit. But I donít think that is the main reason you canít use all of the features that have already been specified.


Often there will be several versions of Working Drafts for a given proposal. For example, the fourth Working Draft of the Document Object Model ( DOM) was published in mid-April, 1998; the first draft was in October, 1997. The number and frequency of drafts probably indicates that the DOM is nearing the next stage in the W3C process -- a Proposed Recommendation which typically lasts only a few months, providing the membership one final chance to suggest changes. A Proposed Recommendation must contain a statement indicating how the current proposal relates to existing documents and standards. Members vote on whether or not to accept the proposal as is, or with changes, or to return it to Working Draft status, or to reject it altogether (drop it from the W3C activities); members submit questions which must be addressed. After incorporating the latest comments and revisions, if the W3C members reach a consensus, the document becomes a W3C Recommendation, the highest status of such specifications. Although the W3C does not use the word "standard", a Recommendation is essentially a standard since all major browser and tools vendors will need to adhere to its descriptions and proscriptions

W3C Submissions

Any W3C member can submit suggestion for a Web standard to the consortium. Most W3C Recommendation started as a submission to the consortium.

If a submission is within the W3C work area (or charter), the W3C will decide if they should start working to refine suggestion.

W3C Notes

Often a submission to W3C becomes a Note. A Note is a description of a suggestion refined as public document.

A Note is made available by the W3C for the discussion only. Publication of a Note indicate no endorsement by W3C. The content of a Note is edited by the member that submitted the Note, and not by W3C. A Note may be updated, replaced, or rendered obsolete at any instant of time. The publication of a Note does not indicate that the W3C has started any work related to Note.

W3C Working Groups

When a submission is acknowledged by W3C, a Working Group consisting of members and other interested parties is formed.

The Working Group will normally define a time schedule and issue a Working Draft of the proposed standard, describing the work in the progress.

W3C Working Drafts

W3C Working Drafts are normally posted on W3C Web site, along with an invitation for public comments.

A Working Draft indicate work in progress, but should not be used as reference material. The content may be updated, replaced, or rendered obsolete at any instant of time.

W3C Candidate Recommendations

Some specifications are more complex than others, and might require more inputs, more time, and more testing from members and software vendors. Sometimes these specifications are published as a Candidate Recommendations.

A Candidate Recommendation is also a "work in progress" and should not be used as the reference material. The document may be updated, obsolete, and replaced at any time.

W3C Proposed Recommendations

A Proposed Recommendation represent the final stage of the work in the Working Group.

A Proposed Recommendation is still "work in progress" and may still be updated, obsolete, and replaced. But even if it does not imply any official endorsement by the W3C, most often a Proposed Recommendation is close to the final Recommendation both in time and in content.

W3C Recommendations

W3C Recommendations have been reviewed by the W3C member, and have the W3C's director's stamp of approval.

A W3C Recommendation is considered as a stable document and may be used as reference material.

The next chapters of this section of academictutorials summarize the HTML, CSS, XML, XSL activities at the W3C, including the document status and timeline for each Web standard.

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