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The W3 Consortium oversees development of the web technology standards.
Soon after he created the web, Tim Berners-Lee realized that an independent standards making body was needed to ensure universality of functionality across the industry. He tried to get the IETF, a comparable Internet organization, interested in taking on the role, but there wasn’t yet enough consensus. He then talked to several people about setting up a body modeled on the successful X Consortiumwhich managed the popular Unix X-Windows standard. One person he found particularly receptive to the idea was Michael Dertouzos, the head of MIT’s Laboratory for Computer Science, who helped him obtain seed funding and establish what would become the W3C.
In 1994, the W3 Consortium was formally established with support from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique (INRIA) in Europe, DARPA, and the European Commission, with a mandate to oversee development of common web protocols and promote web interoperability.
The W3C established offices at the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science in October, 1994, at INRIA in March, 1995, and then at the Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus in Japan in August, 1996. One of the first things that Berners-Lee did when he got to MIT was move the world’s first web server, info.cern.ch, to a new home at http://www.w3.org/.
The W3C’s first and current Director is the developer of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, its first and current Chairman is Jean-François Abramatic. Professors Nobuo Saito and Tatsuya Hagino are the associate chair and associate director respectively from Japan.
The W3C publishes a sample code implementation to promote each of their standards. All W3C products are available during development to W3C members, and then are made available to the general public a month after formal internal release.
Any industry or staff member can raise an issue for consideration. The W3C staff will then put together a briefing package describing the issue, its importance, the market relevance, technical issues, why the W3C should be involved, how it could help, next steps, and how much it would cost. Members review and comment on the briefing package, and if there is sufficient consensus an activity is generated to address the issue.
When the W3C was formed, the fee for full membership was set to US$50K annually. Associate memberships were available at US$5K for non-profit organizations, governments, or companies with less than US$50 million in revenues. Netscape joined as a full member on principle, even though it qualified as an associate member since it was a new company without any revenues.
Membership is open to any organization, but not to individuals. However, individuals can subscribe to the W3C’s “World Wide Web Journal”.