I am spending some time this week in Beijing, with W3C folks and members. And there is one thing that I believe deserves to be known. Six months ago, W3C has changed its organization. And. After having the big picture presented by the W3C staff to the new W3C members, it stroke me that this organization will definitely support the mision of W3C – which is, as everyone knows, leading the web to its full potential. So let me share with you how W3C is going to manage its strategy to shape the future, as the W3C management team explains it.
W3C has now a strategy team. Which role is to identify new topics to be standardized, and supporting its kickoff. This starts with canvassing the web, identifying some W3C members interests, organizing workshops when there is strong suspicion that a specific feature is trendy and that there is a room for a web related standard. Other insights are conversation, press reviews, members requests, identifying community of growing adopters.
Some examples of successful explorations.
W3C recently held a virtual reality workshop, gathering developers and technologist. Questions whether the open web platform could be extended and some track were confirmed. There is an active community group, will bring something to chartering.
Another successful workshop was related to blockchain and the web. The objective was about exploring the opportunity for exposure of blockchain to web apps, and the role W3C could have in improving interoperability – which is what a standard is about. A blockchain community group is currently working on defining the actual web related use cases and evaluating if technology adoption permits to switch to standard deliverables.
How to decide to kickoff new W3C working groups ? Involvement of W3C on a specific techno has to happen at the right point. Too early and the work will be slow and potential irrelevant, too late and the technology might be already fragmented. This has to happen, when the technology is mature, rolled out in devices supporting browsers, and when some minimum viable prototyping has been demonstrated for the web. This is why W3C is encouraging incubation work. Incubation produces prototype, design document, some code examples, and use cases. Based on this first level of assessment, W3C can decide to open a working group. This has also a collateral benefit for the W3C member’s patent commitment – which is about a member sharing for free its essential patents. Because, when signing that royalty free commitment, for a WG, members have a relative clear idea of the group deliverable.
Where is incubation happening? There is a platform to suggest any community group, with limited IP commitment. It can be used to engage conversation, drafting work, and gather people with common interest. Some CG are independant, and others are supported by some W3C team members. In addition, there is a very popular incubation community group, the Web Platform Incubation Community Group, which is known as the entry point to enrich the HTML set of specifications. Anyone can drop a proposal and get feedbacks from major browser makers and web platform influencers.
And how does a feature become a recommendation? Once an incubated work is felt ready by the W3C strategy team, a working group charter is designed. The W3C members will review it, and may finetune, or object. And this is how one new idea has a chance to be part of the famous list of W3C recommendations!
All W3C strategy team work can be followed under github https://github.com/w3c/strategy. Track it and contribute !