Types of documents W3C publishes

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This document lists the different classes of specifications published at W3C and explain their differences, and what the several levels of maturity imply on the Web Standards track.

1.  Summary table

Type Standards Track Patent Policy Implementations Endorsed by W3C
CG/BG Report No Partial Varies No
Submission No See document Varies No
Editor's Draft No No Varies No
Draft Note No No Varies No
Notes No No Varies No
Statement No No N/A Yes
Discontinued Draft No Varies Varies No
Draft Registry No No N/A No
Candidate Registry No No N/A No
Registry No No N/A Yes
Working Draft Yes Not yet Varies No
Candidate Recommendation Yes Varies Varies No
Proposed Recommendation Yes Yes Varies No
Recommendation Yes Yes Varies Yes

2.  Pre-standardization, proposals, notes

2.1 W3C Community Group Report or W3C Business Group Report

A W3C Community or Business Group Report is a document produced by a W3C Community or Business Group.

These reports follow the W3C Community and Business Group Process, designed to allow an easy way for innovation by individuals, outside the formal W3C standards process. These reports have not received formal review and are not endorsed by W3C.

These reports MUST NOT be cited as W3C standards. They may or may not be brought to the W3C standardization track.

Software MAY implement these reports at their own risk. Implementation is neither discouraged nor encouraged but can contribute to proposals for further action on the document.

These reports may be in Draft or Final form:

  • A Draft Report received patent licensing commitments from the participants for their contributions under the W3C Community Licensing Agreement.
  • A Final Report receiving patent licensing commitments for the entire specification from the organizations who committed to the W3C Community Final Specification Agreement.

A W3C Community or Business Group report MAY get picked up by a standards organization, including W3C, to incorporate into a future Standard.

2.2 W3C Member Submission

W3C Member Submission is a document produced by one or more W3C Members.

A submission is a document allowing W3C Members to propose technology or other ideas for consideration. These submissions have not received formal review and are not endorsed W3C.

These submissions MUST NOT be cited as W3C standards and may or may not become W3C standards.

Software MAY implement these reports at their own risk. Implementation is neither discouraged nor encouraged but can contribute to proposals for further action on a specification.

The Member Submission process affords W3C Members a record of their contribution and gives them a mechanism for disclosures (including IPR claims).

A Member Submission MAY get picked up by a standards organization, including W3C, to incorporate into a future Standard.

2.3 Editor's draft

An Editor's draft is a document produced by a W3C Group.

An editor's draft is a document allowing the Group to iterate internally on its content for consideration. Editor's Drafts are works in progress inside a W3C Group and are not required to have the consensus of the Group participants. These drafts have not received formal review and are not endorsed W3C.

These drafts MUST NOT be cited as W3C standards and may or may not become W3C standards.

Software MAY implement these drafts at their own risk. Implementation is neither discouraged nor encouraged but can contribute to proposals for further action on a specification.

There are no patent protection covering the implementations of editor's drafts.

An Editor's Draft is a document that W3C has not yet published and the group responsible for the draft may publish eventually.

2.4 Other documents

The document listed in this section have no W3C standing, endorsement, or patent commitments. Those documents are not part of W3C Group.

Unofficial Draft
This type of documents are authored by individuals in the community.

2.5 W3C Note track

W3C Notes and W3C Statements are published to either to document information other than technical specifications, such as use cases motivating a specification and best practices for its use.

2.5.1 Draft Note

W3C Draft Note is a document produced by a W3C Working Group, a W3C Interest Group, the Advisory Board (AB), or the W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG). A W3C Draft Note is a W3C Technical Report.

Some Group Notes are developed through successive Draft Notes, with an expectation that they will become Group Notes eventually.

These draft notes have not received formal review and are not endorsed W3C.

These draft notes MUST NOT be cited as W3C standards and may or may not become W3C Group Notes.

Software MAY implement these reports at their own risk. Implementation is neither discouraged nor encouraged but can contribute to proposals for further action on a specification.

There are no patent protection covering the implementations of a Draft Note.

2.5.2 Group Note

W3C Group Note is a document produced by a W3C Working Group, a W3C Interest Group, the Advisory Board (AB), or the W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG). A W3C Group Note is a W3C Technical Report.

A Group Note is to provide a stable reference for a document that is not intended to be a formal standard. These notes have not received formal review and are not endorsed W3C.

These notes MUST NOT be cited as W3C standards and may or may not become W3C Statements.

Software MAY implement these reports at their own risk. Implementation is neither discouraged nor encouraged but can contribute to proposals for further action on a specification.

There are no patent protection covering the implementations of the Group Note.

2.5.3 Statements

W3C Statement is a document produced by a W3C Working Group, a W3C Interest Group, the Advisory Board (AB), or the W3C Technical Architecture Group (TAG). A W3C Statement is a W3C Technical Report.

A Statement is to provide a stable reference for a document that is not intended to be a formal standard. These statements have been formally reviewed and are endorsed W3C.

These statements MAY be cited as W3C statements.

W3C Statements should not contain implementable technology.

There are no patent protection covering the implementations of the W3C Statement.

3.  W3C Registry Track

Registries are published to document collections of values or other data.

3.1 Draft Registry

W3C Draft Registry is a document produced by a W3C Working Group. A W3C Draft Registry is a W3C Technical Report.

Some Registries are developed through successive Draft Registries, with an expectation that they will become Candidate Registries eventually.

These draft registries have not received formal review and are not endorsed W3C.

These draft registries MUST NOT be cited as W3C Registries and may or may not become W3C Registries.

W3C Draft Registries should not contain implementable technology.

There are no patent protection covering the implementations of a Draft Registry.

3.2 Candidate Registry

3.2.1 Candidate Registry Draft

W3C Candidate Registry Draft is a document produced by a W3C Working Group. A W3C Candidate Registry Draft is a W3C Technical Report.

A Candidate Registry Draft integrates changes from a previous Candidate Registry (Draft or Snapshot) to allow for review and for ease of reference to the integrated specification.

These changes have not received formal review.

These documents MUST NOT be cited as W3C Registries and MAY never become W3C Registries.

There are no patent protection covering the implementations of a Candidate Registry Draft.

3.2.2 Candidate Registry Snapshot

W3C Candidate Registry Snapshot is a document produced by a W3C Working Group. A W3C Candidate Registry Snapshot is a W3C Technical Report.

A Candidate Registry Snapshot is published for a final review before endorsement by W3C.

These documents MUST NOT be cited as W3C Registries and may or may not become W3C Registries.

W3C Candidate Registries should not contain implementable technology.

There are no patent protection covering the implementations of a Candidate Registry Snapshot.

3.3 Registry

A Registry is to provide a stable reference for a document whose purpose can include non-collision, non-duplication, information, submission, and consensus. Each such specification SHOULD document its own process for future registry definition updates.

W3C Registry is a document produced by a W3C Working Group. A W3C Registry is a W3C Technical Report.

These registries have been formally reviewed and are endorsed W3C.

These documents MAY be cited as W3C Registries.

W3C Registries should not contain implementable technology.

There are no patent protection covering the implementations of the W3C Registry.

4.  W3C Standardization track

The classes of specifications listed in this section have received different levels of review by W3C Members, by software developers, and by other W3C groups and interested parties according to W3C Process. These specifications are intended to eventually receive endorsement by W3C.

Technical reports on the W3C Recommendation Track are developed in order to ultimately produce normative specifications or guidelines as standards for the Web.

4.1 Working Draft

A Working Draft is a document that W3C has published for review and for simple historical reference. A Working Draft is a work in progress and the content is not required to have full consensus of the Group participants, though the Group must have consensus to publish the draft. Per the W3C Patent Policy of September 2020, the first publication of the specification as a Working Draft marks the commencement of formal IPR licensing commitments.

A W3C Working Draft is a document produced by a W3C Working Group. A W3C Working Draft is a W3C Technical Report.

W3C standard-track documents are developed through successive Working Drafts, with an expectation that they will become Canidate Recommendations eventually.

These working drafts have not received formal review and are not endorsed W3C.

These draft notes MUST NOT be cited as W3C standards and may or may not become W3C standards.

Software MAY implement these specifications at their own risk but implementation feedback is encouraged.

There are no patent protection covering the implementations of a W3C Working Draft.

4.1.1 First Public Working Draft

A First Public Working Draft is a document that W3C has published for review and for simple historical reference. It is the first publication of a Working Draft.

4.2 Candidate Recommendation

4.2.1 Candidate Recommendation Draft

A W3C Candidate Recommendation Draft is a document produced by a W3C Working Group. A W3C Candidate Recommendation Draft is a W3C Technical Report.

A Candidate Recommendation Draft integrates changes from a previous Candidate Recommendation (Draft or Snapshot) to allow for review and for ease of reference to the integrated specification.

These changes have not received formal review.

These documents MUST NOT be cited as W3C standards and may or may not become W3C standards.

Software MAY implement these specifications at their own risk but implementation feedback is encouraged.

There are no patent protection covering the implementations of a Candidate Recommendation Draft.

4.2.2 Candidate Recommendation Snapshot

A W3C Candidate Recommendation Snapshot is a document produced by a W3C Working Group. A W3C Candidate Recommendation Snapshot is a W3C Technical Report.

A Candidate Recommendation Snapshot is a document that satisfies the technical requirements established in the Group charter or in subsequent requirements documents, has consensus of the Group participants, has gotten public review, and has received formal review from other W3C Groups. Such specification is intended to gather final feedback from implementers.

A Candidate Recommendation Snapshot has been reviewed by W3C Groups and interested parties.

These documents MUST NOT be cited as W3C standards and may or may not become W3C standards.

Software MAY implement these specifications and implementation feedback is encouraged.

A Candidate Recommendation Snapshot has commitments from Working Group members to royalty-free licensing for implementations.

4.3 Proposed Recommendation

A Proposed Recommendation is a specification that has been accepted by W3C as of sufficient quality to become a Standard. Such specification has been reviewed by software developers, as well as by W3C Groups and other interested parties. It is published for a final review by W3C Members before approval by the W3C Director.

4.4 Discontinued Draft

A Discontinued Draft is a specification that is no longer intended to advance or to be maintained. It was never and will not be a Recommendation.

5.  Standard

The classes of specifications listed in this section have been formally reviewed by W3C Members, by software developers, and by W3C groups and interested parties. These specifications are endorsed by the W3C Director and W3C Membership (except if Rescinded).

5.1 Recommendation

A W3C Recommendation is a specification or set of guidelines or requirements that, after extensive consensus-building, has received the endorsement of W3C. A W3C Recommendation is a W3C Technical Report.

W3C Recommendations have been formally reviewed by W3C Members, by software developers, and by W3C groups and interested parties.

W3C recommends the wide deployment of a Recommendation as a standard for the Web. These documents MAY be cited as W3C standards.

Some W3C Recommendation MAY be continuously revised while others are maintained by creating a new version. Upcoming changes are listed as candidate and proposed amendments in W3C Recommendations. Feedback on those amendments is encouraged.

Software SHOULD implement these specifications.

A W3C Recommendation has commitments from Working Group members to royalty-free licensing for implementations.

5.1.1 Amended Recommendation

An Amended Recommendation is a specification that updates a previous Recommendation to include substantive changes that do not add new features. An Amended Recommendation is produced by the W3C Staff to update a Recommendation (e.g. to incorporate errata) when no W3C Working Group has a charter with a scope that covers the content of the Recommendation.

These documents MAY be cited as W3C standards.

5.2 Superseded Recommendation

A Superseded Recommendation is a specification that has been replaced by a newer version that W3C recommends for new adoption.

Software SHOULD implement the newer versions.

5.3 Obsolete Recommendation

An Obsolete Recommendation is a specification that W3C has determined lacks sufficient market relevance to continue recommending it for implementation.

Software MAY have implemented these specifications.

5.4 Rescinded Recommendation

A Rescinded Recommendation is an entire Recommendation that W3C no longer endorses, and believes there is no reasonable prospect of it being restored to Recommendation status.

Software SHOULD NOT implement these specifications.

6.  References

[PROCESS]
World Wide Web Consortium Process Document. URL: https://www.w3.org/Consortium/Process/
[PATENT-POLICY]
W3C Patent Policy. URL: https://www.w3.org/Consortium/Patent-Policy/
[BCG-PROCESS]
Community and Business Group Process. URL: https://www.w3.org/community/about/process/