The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C (www.w3c.org) is the main international standards organization, and keeper of the specifications for all the technologies on the World Wide Web. since 1994 the W3C has provided the guidelines by which websites and web pages should be structured and created.
The W3C consists of a community with members that came from organizations, including the original corporate giants Microsoft and Sun, joined by others such as Adobe, Apple and Google. The membership list is completed by smaller companies, organizations, full-time staffs and interest groups, all of whom are committed in some way to shaping the future of the web.
Although it is not structured for individual memberships, W3C encourages individuals to participate in W3C mailing lists and are sometimes invited by W3C to participate in W3C workshops, or to contribute feedback on implementations of Candidate Recommendations and translating W3C documents. Certain individuals are asked by a Working Group, Interest Group or Coordination Group to become an "Invited Expert" in a specific field. Interest Groups help ensure interested parties are brought together to review and discuss new technologies. Coordination Groups help build consensus by facilitating awareness of and communication between different interest groups inside and outside W3C.
The W3C is led by its founder and overall Director, Tim Berners-Lee and CEO Jeffrey Jaffe. W3C's mission is to lead the web to its full potential.
The rules the W3C outline the best practices for websites to be viewed correctly by the available web browsers in any platforms and/or devices. It is necessary for websites to insure that they are designed to meet the W3C guidelines.
The proper use of standards makes sure that not only is a website can be marked up in a semantic fashion which search engines can interpret and weigh without confusion, it also skews the content-to-code ratio in the direction where it needs to be while forcing all of the information in the page to be made accessible, thus favoring the content and improving its performance.
The rapid expansion of the World Wide Web and the internet into every area of society led inevitably to the broadening of participation in W3C activities. Although W3C still encourages strong corporate participation in order to ensure that there is support for implementing the technologies it recommends into popular programs such as word-processors and browsers, a large number of smaller companies and technology experts now complete the ranks of W3C's Working Groups. These groups adhere to a very public and rigorous standards approval process that ensures accountability and helps generate broad-based community support for W3C standards.
The W3C membership comes with a fee. The cost for its membership depends on its members' gross revenue. To encourage the participations from small companies and from developing countries, W3C implemented a fee structure that is geographically sensitive.
Some benefits of W3C membership:
- Members are allowed to propose technology and other ideas that can become candidates for W3C Recommendations.
- Members can belong to Working Groups that generate candidates for standards.
- Members can create Incubator Groups that jump-start development on new, web-related concepts.
- Members can (and must) nominate one person to represent them on W3C's Advisory Committee.
- Members have access to pre-release material generated by the Consortium and to member-only mailing lists.
- Members can participate in Interest Groups to review and discuss new technologies.
- Members can participate in Coordination Groups that help build consensus.
The Standards, the Recommendations
Since the creation of W3C, its Working Groups have generated over 90 standards, all described in the W3C.org website. Each of the standard or "recommendation" emerges only after a document (or technology suggestion) passes through rigorous stages of review, reformulation and implementation, called the "Recommendation Track". This process is steered by Working Groups.
Although the standards are recommendations, it's necessary for any website to implement. And although the validation is not a "shortcut" to the top rankings in search engines or popularity, the standards can give many advantages to any given users and search engines.