How YOU can join the W3C HTML5 Working Group in 4 easy steps

A great new initiative was launched recently: Move the Web Forward, which encourages developers to get involved in standards development. So I though it opportune to update and expand upon a how to by Ian Hickson from 2007.

HTML5Anyone can join the W3C HTML Working Group

Want to have a say in the development of the language of the web? Then join W3C HTML Working Group, here’s how to do it:

I encourage everyone interested in the development of HTML5 to take part. If you don’t take part, and the language develops in a way you don’t like, then you have but yourself to blame.

Taking part in the group is not a big commitment. You can spend as much or as little time contributing; you don’t need to read every e-mail on subjects you don’t care about, you don’t need to call in or attend face-to-face meetings. In fact, the W3C has stated in the group’s charter that no binding decisions will be made at meetings; you are guaranteed equal say whether you are present or not.

To join, you have to go through the following steps:

If you don’t work for a W3C member organisation:

  1. If you do not already have a W3C Access Account login and password (check if there is an account associated with your address), complete the Public Access Request Form. You should receive your W3C login name and password within two (2) business days.
  2. After you receive your W3C login name, complete the W3C Invited Expert Application. You should receive a reply within ten (10) business days. If your request is accepted, you will receive an invitation with additional instructions for formally joining the group.
  3. You will then be able to complete the form for joining and participating in the HTML Working Group as an Invited Expert, at which point you are a bona fide member!
  4. Remember to read the HTML Working Group Charter, invited expert and collaborators agreement and Policy for Approval of Invited Experts documents.

You will also be subscribed automatically to the group’s mailing lists.

If you do work for a W3C member organisation:

The steps above don’t apply to you. Instead, you have to follow these instructions.

What about HTML5 Accessibility?

The W3C HTML Working Group has a dedicated accessibility task force (mailing list) working on a range of HTML5 accessibility issues:

Note: Any HTML working group member can join the accessibility taskforce and are encouraged to!

Based on Ian Hickson’s post (2007) and Instructions for joining the HTML Working Group

Categories: Development

About Steve Faulkner

Steve is the Chief Accessibility Officer at TPGi. He joined TPGi in 2006 and was previously a Senior Web Accessibility Consultant at vision australia. Steve is a member of several groups, including the W3C Web Platforms Working Group and the W3C ARIA Working Group. He is an editor of several specifications at the W3C including ARIA in HTML and HTML Accessibility API Mappings 1.0. He also develops and maintains HTML5accessibility and the JAWS bug tracker/standards support.


Mehdi says:

Hi there!

How about front-end developers? I always found W3C mailing lists and discussions to be EXTEMELY technical to the point where, after doing websites for 13 years using their standards, I am absolutely clueless about what they’re talking about…


Steve Faulkner says:

Hi Mehdi, I suggest you, dig into Move the Web Forward, it has something for everyone.

Jared Smith says:

I would encourage everyone to read and ponder the agreement carefully. Note that you grant the W3C ownership of any derivative works – which they have defined for us as including critiques, commentary, and technical recommendations on W3C standards. When we asked for clarification on this, the W3C basically requested editorial privilege and ability to edit or reject any of our written works or presentations regarding WCAG or other W3C works. This was, of course, totally unacceptable to us.

Additionally, working group members agree not to use the terms “W3C, MIT, ERCIM or KEIO” without prior written permission. This comment and the post above would clearly be violations of this agreement – assuming Steve didn’t receive permission to use “W3C”.

We would love to participate formally in W3C efforts, but cannot agree to such terms.

Steve Faulkner says:

Hi Jared,
I realize you have some disagreements with W3C in this regard, and agree that anyone joining any W3C working group should be mindful of what they are signing up to. But I have never asked for permission to use the term ‘W3C’ and have never been contacted or asked to desist using it, or anything related to the W3C.

I will also add that while I am a supporter of the W3C, I am also publicly critical of its policies, procedures and decisions.

Jared Smith says:

We asked about the use of “W3C” without permission. Their lawyers indicated that, like you, people do it all the time and they just look the other way, but they still see it as a violation of the agreement and could dismiss anyone for using it at any time.

Our lawyers would not allow us to agree to terms that would clearly place us and our content in a vulnerable legal position. If the W3C has no intention of enforcing these parts of the agreement, they shouldn’t be there. In our case, they indicated that they were ready and willing to enforce their agreement upon any W3C-related content we publish.

Jared Smith says:

To give an idea of what this means, the exact requirement they asked of us was worded pretty much as, “All you have to do is send us anything you want to publish on W3C technologies. We’ll then approve it or edit it until we’re happy.”

No, I don’t think so.

Steve Faulkner says:

Hi Jared, it is difficult for people to form a judgement about the w3C’s actions in this case, without having a full understanding of the circumstances, which is why I suggested you provide some context. You replied:

I don’t really want to say more. I fully support and advocate W3C work, but formal membership is not possible for us.

As you should know, I think that your absence from the accessibility work going on in the W3C is a real loss.

Jared Smith says:

Shortly after publishing our helpful WCAG 2.0 checklist – – I was immediately asked to participate on the WCAG working group as an invited expert. When I didn’t join up, the W3C then started expressing multiple concerns regarding our checklist – using words like “copyright infringement”, “derivative works”, and “lawyers”. At their request, we implemented MANY modifications to the checklist over the course of over a year (note the full page of disclaimers at the top of the checklist) and as near as I can tell we remedied nearly all of their concerns.

I was continually pressed to join a working group with several random invitations to various WAI groups. I very much wanted to formally contribute, but when I asked for clarification on the agreement, the W3C suggested editorial privilege and clarified that the membership agreement would grant this to them or possibly give them legal grounds for removing or modifying our published content. This is untenable. I can’t help but wonder if the W3C was more interested in controlling my publications than getting my participation.

I want to make it clear that I fully advocate participation with the W3C. Their work is invaluable. I continue to make W3C contributions, though not as a working group member. I simply think it prudent that everyone consider the implications of the member agreement before signing up.

Ian Jacobs says:

Hi Jared,
Thanks for the comments. I appreciate that you want to contribute to the W3C work on accessibility. I’ll check with the staff on some of the questions we discussed today by phone.

Jared Smith says:

Thank you Ian. I appreciate the call and the dialogue. As I mentioned, the core issue is ambiguity about what might constitute a derivative work.

We’ve been told that (and I quote), “Whether W3C would or could consider several works from WebAIM as derivatives of W3C/WAI work is not dependent in any way on WebAIM’s membership or participation in a W3C Group.” On the contrary, in order to participate, working group members must contractually agree not to create such derivative works. If “several works from WebAIM” (I’ve yet to be told which ones or why) are derivatives, then ANY commentary that deviates from W3C language must be a derivative. This puts us in an impossible situation where we have been asked to sign an agreement that we are apparently already violating – and that we would certainly violate in the future, at least if we wanted to maintain any publications about W3C technologies.

At the same time, we were also told that it is “difficult to predetermine every instance of the thin line that sometimes distinguishes a document use from a derivative work”, unless we have the W3C clear or edit our publications. This is where we disengaged. We cannot and will not contractually relinquish editorial control of our content, especially if we are not given much better clarification of what might constitute a derivative work and therefore a violation of the member agreement.

mattur says:

I’d like to hear from Ian Jacobs how threatening WebAim with legal action over its excellent WCAG2 checklist helps in the W3C’s mission to “to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential”.

It seems to me the W3C’s only possible motivation here is to maintain WAI’s stranglehold on providing accessibility guidelines – whether that’s the best outcome for the open web or not. Leadership on the open web comes from excellence in execution, not legal bully-boy tactics.

Steve Faulkner says:

Hi Mattur,
I would like to keep the discussion here civil and productive, this is not a place for you to grind your axes, so minimising the inflamatory rhetoric would be appreciated.

Steve Faulkner says:

I also think that the motivation is not as you negatively characterised it:

only possible motivation here is to maintain WAI’s stranglehold on providing accessibility guidelines

Instead I would suggest it is rather a heavy handed and non productive attempt to preserve the meaning and integrity of WCAG 2.0 which is a normative document and as such used by governments and organizations world wide as a canonical reference regarding web accessibility conformance.

mattur says:

I would like to see the W3C productively discuss the points made by Jared in public.

You’ve previously suggested to me that the W3C’s restrictive licensing does not cause any harm. This seems to be a clear example of it causing harm.

Steve Faulkner says:

Hi Mattur,

I would like to see the W3C productively discuss the points made by Jared in public.

A positive resolution to any outstanding issues would be the best outcome. There is no requirement on either party to discuss anything about this in public, nor should there be.

You’ve previously suggested to me that the W3C’s restrictive licensing does not cause any harm. This seems to be a clear example of it causing harm.

I would suggest that dilution of a canonical set of accessibility conformance criteria causes more harm, than ensuring a clear disambiguation of what WCAG 2.0 is and what it is not.

Charles Pritchard says:

Jared, I’ve come to the WGs from a very different background: anything I contribute I expect to be put into the public domain. The WHATWG as a bloc has a firm grip on many specifications. They first publish under CC0 style license, then submit to the W3C. It’s a strange gambit, and it makes no sense for your model, but I thought I’d share the perspective.

I’ve joined and am looking forward to extending my WCAG 2.0 Teamwork to the Html5 group to keep A11y on HtML5 front burner…