W3C works to speed Web standard creation

New community groups are designed to make it easier to launch work on new Web technologies. Some of the first concentrate on Web payments and Web education.

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W3C CEO Jeff Jaffe
W3C CEO Jeff Jaffe Stephen Shankland/CNET

The World Wide Web Consortium has begun its effort to speed its processes for standardizing Web technology.

Those wishing a less cumbersome way to evaluate and create new standards now can use what the W3C calls Community Groups, an idea that's been under development for months. The W3C also announced the formation of eight such groups, including ones focusing on the Web payments, Web education, and semantic news.

"Innovation and standardization build on each other," said W3C Chief Executive Jeff Jaffe in a statement. "As the pace of innovation accelerates and more industries embrace W3C's Open Web Platform, community groups will accelerate incorporation of innovative technologies into the Web."

Making it easier and faster to create Web standards is a major priority of the W3C under Jaffe, Novell's former chief technology officer, who took over the W3C last year. The Web itself is maturing rapidly, and a slow-moving or unresponsive W3C is one that will be left behind as browser makers and Web developers set their own course.

That's exactly what happened in 2004 when the W3C decided against new developments for HTML, the language used to build Web pages. When the W3C bowed out, a less formal group called the Web Hypertext Applications Technology Working Group (WHATWG) took up the banner and created most of what's now called HTML5. The W3C re-engaged and now plans to put its final stamp of approval on HTML5 in 2014, though many aspects of it are mature now and are built into browsers and Web pages.

Even as the W3C resumed HTML work, though, the organization realized it was still too cumbersome to get work done. An early attempt to fix that was called incubator groups, but the W3C concluded it hadn't gone far enough and developed community groups instead. Meanwhile, the WHATWG is still active in parallel, and it's even adopted a more fluid HTML development process.

"Through these groups, people can reach influential companies, research groups,and government agencies. Developers can propose ideas to the extensive W3C social network, and in a matter of minutes start to build mindshare using W3C's collaborative tools or their own," said Harry Halpin, the W3C's community development lead.

In addition, the W3C announced another mechanism for like-minded individuals to gather: business groups. These are intended to help people in specific industries work together. The first one is for the oil, gas, and chemicals industry, the W3C said.

The W3C's membership has been growing as Web technologies spread from computers to smartphones, cars, consumer electronics, and other markets. There now are 325 members of the organization. Its standards come with some intellectual property assurances--namely that member companies that create the standards assure they can be used without fear those companies will take legal action concerning patent infringement--and provide a fast track to international standardization at the ISO.

The W3C oversees not just HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), but also development of other technologies such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). That work is gaining importance as the Web becomes the foundation cloud-computing applications that are steadily growing in number and sophistication.