World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web. W3C was founded in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and author of the first Web server and client program as well as author of HyperText Markup Language (HTML), the computer language primarily used to publish information on the Web. W3C is composed of member organizations from Apple, Inc. to Zhejiang University who work together to develop and maintain standards for the Web as well as educating, developing software and serving as a forum for discussion about the Web. Members of W3C include businesses, nonprofit organizations, universities, governmental entities, and individuals.

W3C’s purpose is to create standards that allow common accessibility among all users of the Web, particularly by addressing incompatibility issues between industry vendors, essentially making it a quality control apparatus for the Web. Standards recommended by member organizations proceed through a four-step process before they are certified as being W3C-compatible.

According to the W3C’s Web site, their mission is “to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web.” This includes the democratization of the web, making easier the sharing of information regardless of differences in technical capacity (hardware, software, and the multitude of devices with which one can access the Web), language, location or physical limitations, illustrated by the W3C’s standards for the use of closed captioning over the Web.

W3C’s standards also help maintain the open-endedness of the Web by working to maintain a trustworthy structure that allows individuals and networks from all over the world to communicate and share files safely for a multitude of purposes from participating in social networks to viewing filmed entertainment to archiving recorded material for reference and transcription.

W3C is administered by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in the United States, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) in France, Keio University in Japan and Beihang University in China. The W3C also has world offices in sixteen regions around the world, working with regional Web communities to promote W3C technologies in local languages, broaden W3C’s geographical base, and encourage international participation in W3C Activities.

As of November, Jeffrey Jaffe, former CTO of Novell, is the CEO of W3C. The W3C has a small staff and most of its work is done by experts in the consortium’s working groups.