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  • From: Jon.Bosak@eng.Sun.COM (Jon Bosak)
  • To: xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
  • Date: Mon, 25 May 1998 16:09:43 -0700

About a month ago, I responded to a thread on the xml-dev list about
ways in which independent developers could get access to the W3C
process by suggesting that people interested in participating in an
industry consortium related to XML should instead investigate OASIS,
the industry consortium for companies committed to product-independent
document and data interchange.  Several responses to my suggestion
expressed the belief that xml-dev participants could gain access to
the W3C Member Area through devices such as the formation of
non-profit W3C member organizations, and one in particular asked about
the status of OASIS as a W3C member organization.  I said that I would
try to find out what I could about these questions and report back
what I discovered.

In the time since then, I have reviewed what the W3C itself has said
about its membership policy and have discussed these matters with both
OASIS and with one representative non-profit organization that has
joined the W3C in an attempt to gain access for individuals.  This
report summarizes what I have been able to learn.

As far as I can tell, there simply is no way for individuals to gain
access to the W3C process as individuals.  A handout prepared by the
W3C that I picked up at the WWW7 Conference in Brisbane says:

   W3C is unable to accommodate individuals as members.  Our
   processes are designed for organizational participation, and we do
   not have the support structure to handle large numbers of
   individual members.

It is possible to form a non-profit organization and join W3C (the
HTML User's Group is possibly the clearest example).  But access to
the W3C Member Area is given only to specified staff members of the
organization, not to the membership of the organization itself:

   Membership is open to other "membership organizations", but in
   this case the benefits of W3C membership only extend to the staff
   and officers of those organizations, and do not flow through to
   their own members.

Obviously it's possible to push the boundaries of this requirement,
but my guess is that you would hit a limit at somewhere around a dozen
people.  I don't know how W3C would react to applications from a
number of non-profits that just happened to consist entirely of a
dozen staff members apiece, but I suspect that additional processes
would be put into place to prevent this from happening.

The bottom line, in other words, is that W3C conceives of itself as an
industry consortium in the classic sense, not a user forum like the
IETF, and the impression that I'm left with is that it will resist
attempts to get around its basic mission to represent the interests of
major WWW industry players.  There is nothing unusual or surprising
about this.  (Try joining the Air Transport Association on the grounds
that you have a personal interest in aircraft design.)

So while I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from trying
whatever clever or devious way they can think of for getting access
for individuals to the W3C process -- in fact, I wish them luck -- I
don't come away from my investigations with a very hopeful estimation
of the odds.

On the other hand, I am more convinced than ever that OASIS is the
right consortium for those xml-dev participants who intend to make
products or market services someday (whatever their licensing and
distribution strategy might be).  Here's why:

1. OASIS is the only industry consortium in the world whose charter is
to promote open document and data interchange in general (both on the
internet and off it).

2. OASIS is specifically organized to satisfy the marketing and
technical needs of commercial enterprises (even individual
consultants) whose business case is based on the interoperability of
structured information -- in particular, of XML, SGML, and HTML

It's true that OASIS is open only to companies, not individuals, but a
"company" can simply be a sole proprietorship (for example, a
single-person consultancy).  In other words, you don't have to be
incorporated, you just have to join under a business name.  If your
company is small -- five people or less -- then you can join as an
"associate contributor" for $800 US per year or an "associate
participant" for only $400 US per year.  The difference is basically
how much marketing support you want.

If you join as an "associate participant" then you and your employees
(if any) get to participate in the technical work of the consortium,
which is primarily focused on interoperability issues.  Two important
interoperability issues that will be getting a lot of attention in
OASIS are DTD/schema/namespace registration and XML compliance (OASIS
is collaborating on this with NIST, the U.S. Government agency
responsible for commercial and scientific standards, and I think that
it could benefit from the active participation of some members of the
xml-dev list).  Besides access to all of the technical work, you also
get the right, even at this lowest level of membership, to vote for
the OASIS Board of Directors, guaranteeing a minimum level of
accountability of the organization to its members.

If you join as an "associate contributor" then you also get, for a
very reasonable price, some essential basic marketing support --
inclusion by name in consortium press releases and public relations
materials; press releases from your company and descriptions of your
company and its products or services on the OASIS web site; use of the
OASIS logo (branding your company as a supporter of interoperability);
the ability to submit, review, and distribute OASIS white papers and
educational materials; access to OASIS mailing lists; and most
importantly, the opportunity to participate in OASIS seminars,
conference panels, and exhibits at carefully targeted industry events
throughout the year.  OASIS maintains a presence at these events that
can represent your services and products even when you can't be there
in person.

At the September Seybold Publishing Conference in San Francisco, for
example, OASIS will have a prominently located booth that can not only
distribute your product or service descriptions but can also rent
workstation demo space for the conference.  OASIS also runs panels at
selected events (Documation, for example) and even holds its own "XML
Open for Business" expos to promote XML and related standards and to
showcase the offerings of its members.  In the coming year there will
be two "XML Open for Business" shows in Europe (the first one is
scheduled for the Netherlands in November) and two in North America
(including New York City in July).  While the most interesting
speakers available are selected for these events in order to maximize
attendance, speaking priority is given to OASIS members and tabletop
space for members in the expo area rents for as little $200.  Finally,
OASIS is co-chairing most of the big GCA XML events (such as the
just-ended XML/SGML Europe '98 conference in Paris), which gives them
considerable influence over program selection.

Now, W3C representation through OASIS is an interesting question.  I
raised this at the OASIS meeting following the XML/SGML Europe
conference last week and was told that OASIS has applied for W3C
membership as a non-profit.  Assuming that the application is granted,
OASIS will presumably fall under the rules already alluded to and be
granted Advisory Committee representation by one person (probably a
member of the OASIS Board) with access to W3C member forums limited to
members of the OASIS staff as in the case of other non-profit W3C
member organizations.

Clearly there will have to be processes put in place for certifying
interested OASIS members as representatives to W3C working groups.
Board approval would seem to be the simplest and most direct way to do
this, but no one is sure at this point what the actual process will
be; my impression is that there just haven't been that many requests
from individuals who can support the rather stiff resource demands for
W3C WG participation to make this an issue yet.  But in any case, I
think it's fair to say that any qualified member with the means to
participate in a W3C Working Group that was still accepting
participants would find it relatively easy to become the OASIS
representative to that working group.

It's possible that the people on the xml-dev list who have indicated
their intention to form shell organizations to gain W3C representation
will find a better solution, but until this is demonstrated, I still
believe that the best way for xml-dev subscribers who really want to
participate in W3C working groups is through OASIS.  It's cheap, any
qualified consultant can join, you get lots of side benefits, and once
the processes for working with W3C are in place, it looks to me like
this will be the best avenue for people with the resources to meet W3C
participation requirements to get into W3C working groups.

Contact recruit@oasis-open.org for further details if you want more


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