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W3C Steers Course To Become a Nonprofit Organization

The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) announced on Tuesday that it's planning to launch as a nonprofit organization, kicking off in January 2023.

The W3C will be chartered as a nonprofit under U.S. 501(c)(3) legal doctrine. That stipulation will make the W3C a tax-exempt "charitable organization" prohibited from benefitting private interests, according to U.S. Internal Revenue Service language.

The organization, which is well known for creating "Recommendations" that have guided widely adopted Web technologies, such as HTML and CSS, plans to establish bylaws and have a board of directors elected by its members. However, its Recommendations process involving technical reviews by W3C members "large and small" isn't changing with the nonprofit switch.

"The Advisory Board will still guide the community-driven Process Document enhancement," the announcement explained. "The Technical Architecture Group will continue as the highest authority on technical matters."

Also, nothing changes with regard to the W3C's support for open standards and its "royalty-free W3C Patent Policy," the announcement added.

The W3C is making this change to 501(c)(3) nonprofit status to "achieve clearer reporting, accountability, greater diversity and strategic direction, better global coordination," the announcement explained.

Many may have thought that the W3C already was a nonprofit organization. It was really just a consortium of its member host institutions, according to a W3C spokesperson.

"W3C is not a non-profit already," the spokesperson explained. "W3C has been a Consortium of four host institutions; it has not been an independent legal entity."

Those four host institutions include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Keio University in Japan, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics in France and Beihang University in China.

The choice to go with U.S. nonprofit law offered the W3C the best flexibility to continue its global specifications work, the spokesperson added.

The W3C was originally founded in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee, who is widely credited as the principal "Web inventor." It was conceived as a global consortium to coordinate the various emerging Web standards at the time.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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