How does W3C work, and what does Yandex do there? Interview with Charles McKathy Neville

    In late August, Yandex joined the World Wide Web Consortium . Then, including in a post on Habré , we were asked many questions about why we need W3C, and what we are going to do there. Charles McKathy Neuville

    became our representative at W3C , and I took advantage of his visit to YaC 2012 to ask some of these questions live. Charles has been involved in Web standards at the W3C for almost 14 years. He used to be the director of web standards at Opera Software, and since July 2012 he has been working at Yandex, learning Russian and even has his own Russian-language twitter in Russian .

    By the way - if you have questions to Charles that we have not asked yet, feel free to ask them in the comments. I promise to get answers from him and to add them to the interview and / or reply in the comments.

    Hi Charles. Tell me first what W3C is? Why did we join the consortium and why is it important to Yandex?
    W3C is an organization that develops basic web standards. For example, HTML, CSS, SVG, many kinds of APIs. Most of what works in browsers or sites is determined by the consortium. Individuals and organizations can join it. Basically, the participants determine the work of the W3C. Yandex is the leader in Russia. But he is already globally a significant player on the Internet, so he must - and will - influence how Web standards are developed. Indeed, in the process of creating new services, we find new ways of how to do them. Some of this is new only in the framework of Yandex, but there are things that should determine how the Web will be. It is important for us to show them to others, it is important that they become the standard on the Internet. This is what other companies have been doing for a long time. And they can come and offer their developments, which we have to use. Therefore, we want to create the technologies we need and are important for ourselves.

    And what is the most important thing we should do in this case?
    What is the most important thing? All the most important. I am the head of the Web Applications working group that develops many API standards. For example, XMLHTTPRequest . He himself has existed for several years, but there was no standard for him. As well as a good specification that everyone would understand and implement equally. We almost wrote this. Simple things: ElementTraversal and QuerySelector . These are examples of small specifications that make web development easier. Next up are other types of similar things and APIs. This is what matters to us. HTML HTML5 HTML 5.1 - that's what they call itthe next version is an important task for W3C now. And for us it matters what gets into it and what doesn't. Of course, we can both participate in some specific discussions, and no. But in any case, we have the ability to look at what people are working on and say: "Cool, continue." No problems. But for something else, we can say: “No, no!” It happens that it is important that something is done in one way, but not in the other. This may also apply to the development of CSS or SVG.

    How does the W3C work? How is everything going on there?
    W3C Member Says: We Want To Do Something. A specific example is geolocation. Someone said: we would like geolocation to work on the web. For example, a couple of browsers and a couple of telecommunication companies were interested in this. There were people who were already dealing with this issue, so concrete ideas already existed. They created a workgroup - actually a mailing list. They identified the head of the group that will coordinate its work. After these procedures, W3C participants who are interested in technology begin to argue about how it should be arranged. They write a specification, I publicly post its draft. Everyone says: oh no, you can’t do this, you need to change everything! And then everything shakes and changes. When a working group decides that everything is ready, it shows the results to everyone in the world. Most of the work of the consortium is already public. But in the W3C, in the process of working on the specification, there is a stage at which they clearly say: now is the last moment when we accept comments from the public. And the answers will be given to each question. This is a pretty big job. And a big responsibility.

    Is this a long process? It's not always the same. If the work on preparing the specification did well, everything will go very quickly. In such cases there are no comments and objections. If the specification is very controversial or very significant, for example, like HTML5, it can take several years. After that, you must prove that you can make a working implementation of your specification. Ideally, someone was supposed to implement it even at the moment when it was written. In fact, at this stage, some specifications were already practically implemented in five different browsers. Even before they try and test them themselves. It happens that suitable implementations are not ready for specifications, and in this case it is necessary to really prove that they work. After that, everything ends. You can declare yourself a winner and arrange a holiday.

    Who decides at what point to stop accepting comments on the specification?
    In principle, a working group. She decides on the specification. And her responsibility is to keep track of what she has taken upon herself. Decisions themselves are made in different ways. Sometimes someone really needs a specification to come out quickly. And the working group says: listen, now we are going to make a very simple first version, and then we will deal with the second one. And sometimes they say: we are going to make only one version that will not change, so we will polish the specification until it becomes perfect. It never works, but people keep trying. The fact that everything is ready to go to the final stage is decided by the working group.

    In theory, the W3C structurevery very democratic. In fact, it is so in practice. In theory, all decisions are made by W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee. We must convince him of everything. I'll tell you how to practice. The working group gathers a meeting with its chairman and everyone else. They take out all their documents, bring letters from the mailing list. And they say: here are all the comments we received. We answered all. Usually W3C works until consensus is reached - everyone should be happy. If someone objects - even one person - and insists on his own, this is enough for Tim to study this objection and say: “This dude is talking nonsense and everyone in the working group - 17 development companies, 22 content producers and three more people - consider we have already implemented it all differently. ” Or he will say: “You know, but he says meaningful things, and we really can do it the way he offers.” As an example, objections to accessibility for people with disabilities. Let's say you need to choose between solutions A and B, and one of them will complicate the creation of versions for this category of people. In this case, Tim can say: "Technically, you can do both ways, but doing something on the Web that will not allow most people to use it because of limited capabilities or because of insufficient universality will be stupid." He considers such objections to be serious and in such cases tells the working group to fix the problem.

    And how often does Tim actually do this?
    Very rarely, objections that have arisen at the beginning of a work persist until its end. This usually only happens with very large things like HTML. The most basic and fundamental. In most cases, participants say in advance that they will object. And if the working group considers the comments reasonable and significant, then usually it tries to take them into account before they reach Tim.

    And who is the W3C at all?
    There are three types of participants. Startup participants - there are none from Russia at all. This is a new type, so there are few startups from around the world. There are associated members. Usually they become small companies, research and non-profit organizations, universities. And full-fledged participants, including large companies like Yandex. In fact, the only difference is how much you pay for membership. The larger the company, the more it needs to pay. We are the only full-fledged participant from Russia. And then they became them recently. In total, the W3C has more than 400 participants from around the world. Most of them are perhaps technology companies. Although there is a noticeable number of universities and research groups. There are also many small companies.

    And why are they joining the W3C?
    W3C members are those who value technology. They matter to them. If something breaks, they will have problems. Therefore, they join the W3C - in order to be able to influence the process. And in order to understand what is happening, what other guys are doing. All the largest technology companies are members of the W3C. Although oddities do happen. Opera is one of the smallest companies among those that make their browser. In fact, she makes even less money than the Mozilla Foundation . And at the same time, Opera is one of the largest and most important participants in the W3C. She participates in his work at the same level as Microsoft or IBM - as the biggest players.

    But there are, for example, organizations of the blind in the W3C: Fundación ONCEfrom Spain or Royal Naional Institute of the Blind from the UK. They are at W3C because they want the web to be accessible to blind people. Because these are the very people whose interests they protect. There are still companies like Boeing. Yes, they produce planes, but 250,000 employees work there. And they all use the Web and technology from there. So it is important for them that some things continue to work correctly. For example, they are big fans of SVG. And they are just big enough by themselves to make technology important to them.

    Also popular now: