Although the standards organizations are notoriously slow, somehow, it can seem almost impossible to keep up with long list of technologies the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) suggests, develops and approves. If you’ve been wishing for some sort of quick guide to the many standards the organization has developed, today’s your lucky day.

The Long Windy History of Web Standards

Over the years, the web has become more vast and complex, and so has the W3C’s domain. The web is no longer just something users access at a desk. Constant Internet connectivity has become ubiquitous. Users search for directions and products from parking lots. Idle minutes before a movie are now occupied by viewing online photos and updating statuses. It’s amazing, but it didn’t happen spontaneously.

The pace of change and the sheer number of participants -- vendors, users, researchers -- could have created chaos as Internet use expanded and mobile emerged as a significant influence. But, it didn’t. Organizations like the W3C harnessed the collective energy and knowledge; they worked to define common guidelines and techniques, allowing the innovation to continue without being crushed under its own weight. Most people agree this is a good thing, but the resulting list of standards and specifications isn’t exactly light reading.

The Standards Summary

Thankfully, there is a helpful and very comprehensive summary of the specifications. The W3C originally released the “Standards for Web Applications on Mobile” in February 2011, but has recently released the sixth version. The document is organized into eleven categories of web features (e.g. graphics, data storage). Each category includes a list of related features and for each features, the document includes:

  • the W3C specification that supports the feature
  • the W3C group responsible for the specification
  • the state of the specification in the W3C process
  • the stability of specification
  • availability of implementations on mobile devices
  • a link to the specification
  • a link to the test suite for the feature/specification


The latest release includes several updates that reflect changes to the structure of W3C working groups, specification progress through the recommendation lifecycle and new standards. The summary isn’t a one page chart, but it is definitely a useful resource. The W3C has committed to updating the document every three months and also maintains a live version which accepts public contributions.