August 16, 2006
@ 12:56 PM

In the post entitled Something went wrong at the W3C? Anne van Kesteren has a collection of links to rants about the W3C from Web-standards geeks that is sober reading. The post is excerpted below

Something went wrong at the W3C? Lets see:

  1. To Hell with WCAG 2
  2. Leaving W3C QA Dev.
  3. An angry fix
  4. SVG12: brief clarification on formal objections
  5. SVG Tiny 1.2 in Candidate Wreckommendation stage
  6. What's Wrong With The SVG Working Group
  7. Angry Indeed

Reading some of these rants takes me back to days I used to work on the XML team at Microsoft and how I grew to loathe the W3C and standards bodies in general. All of the above links are recommended reading for anyone who is interested in Web standards. An observation that stood out for me was taken from Joe Clark's rant, To Hell with WCAG 2 where he wrote

And now a word about process, which you have have to appreciate in order to understand the result. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group is the worst committee, group, company, or organization I’ve ever worked with. Several of my friends and I were variously ignored; threatened with ejection from the group or actually ejected; and actively harassed. The process is stacked in favour of multinationals with expense accounts who can afford to talk on the phone for two hours a week and jet to world capitals for meetings.

The WCAG development process is inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t speak English. More importantly, it’s inaccessible to some people with disabilities, notably anyone with a reading disability (who must wade through ill-written standards documents and e-mails—there’s already been a complaint) and anyone who’s deaf (who must listen to conference calls). Almost nobody with a learning disability or hearing impairment contributes to the process—because, in practical terms, they can’t.

This sounds like an apt description of the W3C working groups I used to track, namely the XML Schema working group and the XML Query working group. Both of which [in my opinion] have done more harm than good for the Web and XML by simply existing and retarding progress with the technologies they have failed to produced.

The question I sometimes ponder is what's the alternative? De-facto standards based on proprietary technologies seem to be one option as evidenced by the success of RSS and IXMLHttpRequest. There is also something to be said about the approach taken by Microformats community. Either approach seems preferable to the current mess we have with the W3C's approach to standards development. 


Categories: Web Development
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"Skippa detta om du vill" ( [Trackback]
"XML Standardization Organizations and Processes" (Microsoft XML Team's WebLog) [Trackback]
"In defense of standards Consortia" (Paul Kiel's Xml Weblog) [Trackback]
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Wednesday, August 16, 2006 5:31:26 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
I think you are throwing the baby out with the bath water. Standards are good stuff. But the W3C generally doesn't deal with subjects that are suitable for standardization. Standards are what happen when innovation is over. See
Wednesday, August 16, 2006 9:03:24 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
The microformats community is tightly controlled by the insiders at Technorati. To maintain that control they have no problem removing someone from +their+ discussion without any justification and without notifying the community that they have banned them.

The key to the success of any standards effort is transparency. Political maneuvering is always going to happen, but as long as those moves are visible to the public then they can judge for themselves the implications to the process and to the end product.
Sunday, August 20, 2006 9:47:43 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)

There are some excellent points in your post, and the posts that you link to. I've been listening to this discussion for a while now from Zeldman, Holzschlag, Meyer, Clark etc., and intend to post a follow-up as well, given my own personal experience with participating as a representative and invited expert to the W3C. Thanks for the mention of Suffice it to say for now that there are many positive lessons to be learned from the W3C, and that yes, many alternative approaches that reuse those positive lessons are possible.


Those are very serious accusations. You mention that the key to the success of any standards effort is transparency. All the discussions (mailing lists, irc, wiki-edits) on are logged in public archives. Please provide URLs that support your assertions so the community can judge the merits (or lack thereof) of your acccusations, resolve the issues, and move forward.


Tantek (Disclosure: yes, I work for Technorati. And before that, I worked at Microsoft. Insert additional conspiracy theories as necessary ;)
Monday, August 21, 2006 7:06:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Tantek -

Here's where I entered the discussion ...

Ryan King was the one who sent me an email indicating that my comments were no longer welcome and that if I had any future questions they were to be directed to him and not to the microformats discussion list. Ryan indicated that he had discussed this decision with others so I assumed that you had been in the loop. I have no problem with Ryan sharing that email exchange with you if it will help you to move forward.

I'll take this opportunity to apologize to those I left hanging in that thread as I decided to respect Ryan's request that I not disrupt the efforts of the group by providing a public explanation for my sudden exit from that conversation. I do think microformats are a good thing even though I take issue to the way things are run there.
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