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Ex-Novell CTO takes Web leadership post

As CEO of the World Wide Web Consortium, which oversees HTML, Jeff Jaffe wants to see faster standards development and more work with outside developers.

W3C CEO Jeff Jaffe
Jeff Jaffe, W3C's new chief executive Tony Scarpetta

The World Wide Web Consortium, which oversees development of Hypertext Markup Language and several other standards related to the Web, has a new leader who wants to streamline some of the group's standardization efforts and beef up its ties with outside programmers.

Jeff Jaffe, Novell's chief technology officer until late January and a former executive at IBM and Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs, was named W3C's new chief executive officer on Sunday. In his new position, Jaffe will work with W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee, who first proposed the idea of the Web more than 20 years ago.

"Tim is passionate about the fact that you need a variety of processes to deal with different situations and different issues," Jaffe said in a phone interview with CNET. "Right now the W3C has a very robust, very open process that brings in everyone's' views. There are times there are hot new technologies where you need a faster path to get to the answer quickly. You need a variety of mechanisms. That will be a focus--trying to have highly robust approaches as well as streamlined approaches."

Jaffe will focus on operational chores at the 65-person organization such as funding, communications, and interacting with W3C stakeholders. Meanwhile, Berners-Lee will focus more on technical matters.

The chief executive position had been open since June 30 when Steve Bratt left to become CEO of the World Wide Web Foundation.

One mechanism for faster standards development at the W3C is the incubator group called XG, Jaffe said.

"One of the reason for XG, for incubation groups, is there is a priority to strengthen the outreach to the developer community," Jaffe said. "In general I'd say my focus needs to be more outside the organization rather than inside." About 1,500 outsiders are involved in the W3C's working groups, he added.

The W3C ran into trouble overseeing HTML, the last version of which, 4.1, was issued in 1999. The W3C's standardization group pursued a path called XHTML, but browser developers instead struck off on their own through a group called WHATWG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group). That effort is producing what's now called HTML5 and a variety of related new HTML technologies, and the W3C is jointly standardizing that technology in an unusual two-party arrangement.

There are plenty of new areas where the W3C can tackle standards, Jaffe noted. Examples include cloud computing, Web services, rich Internet applications, and applications for government and health care.