A long time ago, I wrote an article for a standards-policy seminar at UC Irvine on my experience with the development of the World Wide Web Consortium; I later presented to a cyberpolicy seminar in Georgetown. That was about it, until I started reflecting on the challenges in intiating a new Labs division for CommerceNet. It’s a perennial challenge to foster innovation within a multi-party cooperative research & development consortium; the Harvard Business School press even has a book on the topic: Technology Fountainheads: The Management Challenge of R&D Consortia by E. Raymond Corey.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed a novel organizational form as it attempts to “lead the evolution of the Web” — equal parts academic lab, industrial research & development consortium, trade association, and standards body. In this paper, we trace the history of W3C’s adaptations in structure and process to accommodate the shifting opportunities of the Web market.