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Expanded name

World Wide Web Consortium

Date of establishment


URL [external]


The W3C was founded to develop common protocols for the evolution of the World Wide Web. It is an international industry consortium, jointly hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Computer Science [MIT/LCS] in the United States, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM [external]) (from the start of 2003; previously the French Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique [INRIA]) in Europe, and the Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus in Asia. Initially, the W3C was established in collaboration with CERN, where the Web originated, with support from DARPA [external] and the European Commission.

W3C provides a vendor-neutral forum for its Members to address Web-related issues. Working together with its staff and the global Web community, the Consortium aims to produce free, interoperable specifications and sample code. Funding from membership dues, public research funds and external contracts underwrite these efforts.

W3C's long term goals for the Web are:

  • Universal Access: To make the Web accessible to all by promoting technologies that take into account the vast differences in culture, education, ability, material resources and physical limitations of users on all continents.
  • Semantic Web: To develop a software environment that permits each user to make the best use of the resources available on the Web.
  • Web of Trust: To guide the Web's development with careful consideration for the novel legal, commercial, and social issues raised by this technology. 

Areas of Activity

W3C concentrates its efforts on three principle tasks:

  1. Vision: W3C promotes and develops its vision of the future of the World Wide Web.
  2. Design: W3C designs Web technologies to realize this vision, taking into account existing technologies as well as those of the future. The fundamental design principles of the Web as an application built on top of the Internet are: Interoperability, Evolution and Decentralization.  
  3. Standardization: W3C contributes to efforts to standardize Web technologies by producing specifications (called "Recommendations") that describe the building blocks of the Web. W3C makes these Recommendations (and other technical reports) freely available to all.

W3C Activities are generally organized into groups: Working Groups (for technical developments), Interest Groups (for more general work), and Coordination Groups (for communication among related groups).

There are five Domains: Architecture, Document Formats, Interaction, Technology and Society, and the Web Accessibility Initiative. Each Domain is responsible for investigating and leading development in several Activity Areas which are critical to the Web's global evolution and interoperability.

  • Architecture [external]: Enhancing the infrastructure of the Web and increasing its automation. Includes: Document Object Model; Jigsaw server; Uniform Resource Identifier (URI); Extensible Markup Language; XML Protocol.
  • Document Formats [external]: Improving the technology that allows Web users to effectively perceive and express information. Includes: Amaya browser; Graphics, including Portable Network Graphics (PNG), Web Computer Graphics Metafile (WebCGM) and Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG); Hypertext Markup Language (HTML); Internationalization (I18N); Maths, including Mathematical Markup Language (MathML); Style Sheets, including Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and eXtensible Style Sheet Language (XSL).
  • Interaction: [external] Exploring new ways to access Web information. Includes: Device Independence; Synchronized Multimedia, including Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL); Voice Browser.
  • Technology and Society [external]: Understanding the social impact of the Web and reaching out to affected communities. Includes: Privacy, including Platform for Privacy Preferences (P3P); Semantic Web; XML Encryption; XML Signature.
  • Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) [external]. Improving accessibility to web resources for those with disabilities. This work is split into a WAI International Program Office (IPO) and a WAI Technical Activity.

In addition to the five Domains, the Quality Assurance (QA) [external] Activity has been launched with a Working Group and Interest Group whose primary mission is to improve the quality of W3C specification implementation in the field.


W3C is funded by commercial membership. Membership (about 450 at the end of 2002) is open to any organization which signs a membership agreement. The Consortium's Advisory Committee (AC) is comprised of one official representative from each member organization who serves as the primary liaison between the organization and W3C. Associate membership for a reduced fee is available to qualified organizations.

W3C has country and regional offices [external] in several countries, including Benelux countries, Finland, Germany and Austria, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Sweden and the UK.