Web Standards: A Question of Relevance

‘So, off to see Sir Walter Wendel Worthington?’

Everyone pauses and looks at C. I’ve just told my peer group in San Francisco that I’m off to a W3C Advisory Committee meeting and I’ve briefly explained to C and the others what the W3C is, and how it works.

He can’t resist, apparently.

‘I, Sir Walter Wendel Worthington, do bequeath my invention, the WWW…’

Everyone now laughs. I grin, despite myself. It doesn’t work that way, I protest feebly.

C’s incessant clowning aside (as an intriguing but simian insight into perception about the W3C – and I say that with affection), there have been issues of relevance about W3C’s future work that have cropped up.

When Kevin, Alla, Steve, Kimberly and I spoke at SXSW in March 2006, Marc Canter in a question from the floor wanted to know why I’d go to meetings with men in white lab coats. That is not, he claimed, how standards are made. Now admittedly, I was rambling a bit about standards and the W3C, which set me up for the question on the relevance of the consortium. And I answered by saying it is still a convenient forum where those of importance to Web developers (browser manufacturers!) are willing to come.

I guess the question is how are relevant Web standards (including defacto standards, or roses by other names) made, if not under the umbrella of the W3C? Outside the enterprise (whatever the word “enterprise” really means), WS* gives way to REST-like stuff in all its incarnations. Oh, and note developments like the deprecation of the Google SOAP API in favor of the AJAX one. And who really uses XHTML2 anyway (yes, I know, but I’m talking about browsers)? The landscape has changed, sure –but it is still built on the same stack, which is W3C standards. What should W3C work on in the future?

So there have been some really, really encouraging developments, like rechartering the course for HTML. Which is great, since it is the content model nearest and dearest to us. And… it sounds like the nominated chair of the new working group is Microsoft, which for obvious reasons makes this very relevant work. Let’s not rush to conclude that anything is irrelevant.

I look forward to my travels, though they’ll be a bit draining. I’ve never been to Tokyo before.

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