A closeup on the W3C
16:56, 7 Nov 2000 UTC | Simon St.Laurent

Interactive Week examines the Trials and Tribulations of the W3C, and explores its Adolescent Struggles as the W3C adapts to a new and more prominent role.

The article notes the "Web's Lost Age of Innocence", when a small group of people could create the rules for the Web and a "mere handful of people were paying attention". Today,

"the W3C has evolved into the United Nations of the Internet. Operating continuously under a microscope, it welcomes representatives of a business world eager to create standards for Web-based languages and technologies. Yet, lacking enforcement powers, it must rely on international goodwill to persuade competing companies to comply with the standards it creates. And, like the U.N., politics, greed and rancorous debate are increasingly making its work painfully contentious and slow."

The article describes the growing size of Working Groups, delays in projects, and this summer's often bitter explosion over the proper usage of URIs as namespace identifiers. The role of the Director of the W3C, Tim Berners-Lee, is also called into question:

"Observes another board member: 'Part of the success at the W3C has been someone able to make or push decisions. Tim is having a bad year, but he's had a great career.' Whether the problem is perceived as one man's personality or the institution's structure, people want improvements. "

The W3C gets strong support from Adobe, however:

"And besides, animosity is a relative concept. Steve Zilles, an executive at Adobe Systems who has been involved in working groups at both the W3C and the Internet Engineering Task Force, says: 'Relative to other groups, the W3C is friction free.' What's more, the group's combination of closed meetings to encourage candid discussion, regular publishing of results and openness to public comment is often cited as a balance that always - eventually - transforms contention into consensus. 'Is the W3C working? In this case, yes,' says Jon Ferraiolo, another Adobe executive and a member of the SVG working group. "

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