W3C Announces Process Innovations Making it More Authoritative And More Agile

The JTC1 and W3C jointly announced this week that the international vote of 8 web services specifications was successful, and that these Recommendations are now ISO/IEC JTC1 International Standards.

Last year, the W3C applied to ISO/IEC JTC1 to become a “Publicly Available Specification (PAS) Submitter”, which would allow selected W3C Recommendations to be  voted on to become international standards.

After ISO/IEC JTC1’s approval, W3C submitted the package of 8 web services specifications that was recently approved. With this approval, the W3C is now using successfully another process innovation, the second this month.

So why is this announcement important? The best answer comes from the W3C press release, which says: "To many national bodies, the ISO and IEC brands will be more familiar than the W3C brand. In some cases, such as procurement, a country may be required to use ISO/IEC standards. For these reasons and others, W3C believes that formal approval by JTC 1 of W3C standards as International Standards will increase deployment, reduce fragmentation, and provide all users with greater interoperability."

Microsoft already implements these ISO/IEC standards in several ways, especially in .NET Framework which uses all their major features. Thus, products which layer on top of the .NET Framework can also use these standards. Microsoft General Manager Bob Dimpsey notes this in his testimonial, while also pointing to the fact that this announcement validates W3C’s ability to build authoritative standards.

“Web Services specifications are an important part of the interoperability surface for Microsoft’s enterprise and cloud products.  For example, while Web Services specifications are used to enable a Single-Sign-On experience using Access Control Services (ACS), they are also one key way for connectivity with Windows Azure applications through Windows Communication Foundation. We are very pleased that national bodies around the world have agreed to advance these specifications to become ISO/IEC Standards.  Microsoft strongly endorses this vote of confidence in W3C’s ability to build consensus across diverse communities and produce stable, interoperable, and useful standards,” he says.

This is the second important announcement from W3C in recent weeks about process innovations.  As you may remember, on August 16 Community Groups launched to provide an open forum where developers can work with other stakeholders to develop, analyze, test, and promote specifications using a lightweight process with sound legal underpinnings. This announcement was well received, with 15 groups (as of this writing) already up and running, while 9 more have been proposed and are looking for supporters. 

Press reaction has also been very favorable.  I particularly like Webmonkey’s summary: "Well, now is your chance to do something more than whine about the slow pace of standards on your blog. The W3C’s new community groups are designed so that anyone can contribute to the development of HTML. Just head over to the site and join a group that interests you. …  With the new community groups you don’t need to be a Google or Apple employee to catch the attention of the W3C’s members, you just need to sign up and post your ideas for everyone to read."

Together, the Community Group and PAS Submission announcements add up to a compelling story: The W3C Recommendation process now has an “on ramp” allowing open and agile development of community specifications that can feed specifications into traditional Working Groups, and it has an “off ramp” that allows provably useful and interoperable Recommendations to become ISO/IEC JTC1 international standards. 

Not all specs will travel the full route from informal brainstorming in a Community Group to formal standardization by ISO/IEC JTC1, but it’s good to have that full development path available. Not only can individuals get together and jumpstart potential new web standards but there is a full path to ISO/IEC JTC1 standardization. 

Michael Champion, Sr. Program Manager

Member of W3C Advisory Committee and Advisory Board