Standards FAQ

What does "Web standard" mean? What is a "Recommendation"?

W3C publishes documents that define Web technologies. These documents follow a process designed to promote consensus, fairness, public accountability, and quality. At the end of this process, W3C publishes Recommendations, which are considered Web standards.

Does W3C publish other types of documents related to standards or future work?

Yes, W3C also publishes other technical reports that are not standards. These documents do not follow the formal standards process but are published as a service to the community.

In some cases, these documents serve as input to the standards process. Common sources of input to the standards process include:

How should I refer to a W3C Specification? What is W3C's persistence policy?

Each W3C Technical Report has two URIs associated with it, located at the beginning of the document:

  1. A "this version" URI, which identifies the specific document. W3C will make every effort to make a given document indefinitely available, in its original form, at its "this version" URI. W3C may correct broken markup and broken links in place (per the in-place modification policy) but otherwise will make every effort not to change content after publication of a document.
  2. A "latest version" URI, which identifies the most recently published draft in a document series. By document series we mean, for example, "all the drafts of the XML Schema 1.0 specification from First Public Working Draft to Recommendation."

We encourage you to consider carefully which of the two identifiers to use when referring to a W3C Technical Report. If you mean to refer to a particular document or passage "forever," please use the "this version" URI. If you need to refer to "whatever is the most up-to-date version", please use the "latest version" URI.

A bibliography tool can help you format references (especially for inclusion in W3C specifications). See also the general W3C Persistence Policy.

Note: Newer technical reports may include a second "latest version URI" that links to the "most recent standard for this technology, whatever the version number." For more information, see Version Management in W3C Technical Reports.

What does 'conformance' mean?

From the W3C QA Framework: Specification Guidelines, section 2.1:

Conformance is the fulfillment of specified requirements by a product, process, or service. These requirements are detailed in a specification as part of a conformance clause and in the body of the specification.

A clear presentation of conformance is crucial to successful interoperability of implementations.

Are translations of standards available? Can I translate a standard?

The W3C community provides translations of W3C standards and other material. W3C welcomes volunteers and has suggestions for how to volunteer. In addition, W3C has a policy for authorized W3C translations designed to achieve quality translations through a process that relies on transparency and community accountability.

Does W3C have a certification program for implementations (or content, people, or processes)?

No. At this time, W3C has not developed a certification program or authorized any other program to certify conformance to W3C standards.

Where can I find information regarding patent disclosures/claim exclusions?

W3C maintains a list of known patent disclosures and exclusions.

If you wish to disclose or exclude a patent, find the group on our list of groups and follow links to disclose patents or exclude claims on that page.

Where should I send comments about a specification?

Each W3C Technical Report includes a "Status of this document" section near the front. In this section, you will find information about where to send comments.

A Group is not reporting my objections. Whom should I contact?

Groups are required to report objections to the Director and to document them publicly (per section 3.3.2 of the W3C Process Document). If an individual believes objections are not being adequately reported to the Director, the individual may raise concerns with the relevant Domain Lead. Please see the list of Domains, Activities, and Groups and contact information for Domain Leads.

May I Copy a Standard for a Book (or Other Purpose)?

See the W3C Copyright FAQ for answers to questions about copying W3C documents.

Where do I find the DTDs / Schemas for specification X?

Each specification defines its own DTDs, often in an appendix of the specification.

Where do I find the list of elements or attributes for specification X?

Specifications index elements differently. Most specifications include one or more DTDs, or document type definitions. A DTD defines the syntax of a language in technical terms. Some XML specifications include XML Schema definitions; a schema is another way to define the syntax of a language. Some specifications also include a simple list of element and attribute names for convenience.

W3C does not have a single page where all of the elements and attributes of all W3C Technical Reports are listed.

Do you have a version of specification X that I can read offline?

We encourage you to use your browser cache and other caching tools so that a separate offline version is not required. The W3C Communications Team does not have a general policy requiring a Working Group to provide a package for reading a specification offline.

Some Working Groups provide packages for reading a W3C Technical Report offline.

I can't uncompress the zipped version of the specification.

If you are having problems unzipping a file, it may be that your system has already unzipped it for you during the download without removing the ".gz" suffix. You may have to rename the already unzipped file by hand.