W3C_logo_2010.jpg The Internet is such a ubiquitous part of daily existence that its omission from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs must have been accidental. The last three decades of the World Wide Web have fueled technical innovation at a rate that could only be described by its own measurement metaphor -- Internet speed. The pace, however, has also resulted in a chaotic set of standards and practices for using the web. What’s a techie to do? Not to worry -- the standards organization W3C (news, site) is already on the job.

What is the W3C?

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), led by web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, is an international standards organization dedicated to developing protocols, standards, best practices and guidelines for the Internet. Yes, that’s kind of a big deal, which is probably why the W3C community is so extensive. The organization includes full-time staff, over 300 member organizations and the public, to ensure the work is holistic and conforms to the organization’s mission of creating “One Web.”

Open Web Platform -- HTML 5, CSS, It’s All in There

Defining specifications is one of the primary tasks for the W3C. The organization is involved with so many specifications it has grouped the work into a platform. The open web platform is a suite of more than 100 specifications by over 13 working groups -- and the number of standards is expected to grow. Before the seasoned among us release a collective sigh, these aren’t obscure specifications destined to be only feverishly debated by fanboys on blogs. The open web platform includes specifications such as HTML 5, CSS and ECMAScript that comprise the very basis of the web and are familiar to users, designers and developers. There is a timeline for completion for each standard, which includes review by experts and the public, before it becomes official.

With so much to do, it would be easy for the W3C to become lost in indecision and accomplish nothing. The organization has decided to combat the risk by publishing a list of priorities and milestones to guide its activities.

W3C 2011 Priorities, Milestones

The 2011 priorities are intended to help the organization stay results-focused. The priorities include multiple work items grouped into five areas:

Powerful Web Apps

Key technologies in this area include HTML 5, CSS and web fonts. But HTML 5 is the specification that garners the most attention. The standard has a significant amount of industry momentum the W3C can leverage to rapidly evolve the specification. HTML 5 is expected to advance to Last Call status in May 2011 and include support for accessibility and many new features. The W3C will be expanding efforts to ensure the standard is interoperable with the ever-growing list of Internet-capable devices. This should better position the standard to become the core technology for rich application development everywhere.