RE: W3C Formal Objections: When Powerful Corporations Play Both Sides

Hi All,

I am a member of the AB. I think that it would be a good idea to talk to some people who have been involved in the Formal Objection Process work to get a clear understanding of the Formal Objection Council proposal. The FO Council has met only once before, but we have been asked to review two other FOs before DID. I am concerned with Manu's representation of the FO Council in his document. It is very much a work in progress. The FO Council for DID has not yet been formed. I encourage you to read Florian Rivoal's comments at For those of you who don't have access to that list, I will quote Florian:

The Team has been stripped of nothing at all:

* A formal objection is a request to the Director, not to the Team. The Director has frequently chosen to let the Team run this process for him, but the decision has always been formally issued under his name, and he has always been perfectly free to reject a Team's opinion if he thinks they are misguided.

* In the case, the Team has suggested (for the purpose of learning how well a council would work, and to get assistance on a problem judged difficult) that the Director and his delegate(s) hears the the opinion of a prototype council. Just as when the Team does the work, the Director remains perfectly free to reject the opinion of the proto-council if he finds it inappropriate. In fact, the Team isn't even required to forward to the Director a council conclusion that it would find inappropriate itself. The proposed process is purely advisory.

If/When the Council is formally adopted by the membership, this would only happen through a formal revision of the Process, subject to AC Review, and after appropriate discussion in the AC. But for the decisions at hand, there's no usurpation of power, and no ambiguity where it lies: with the Director, as it always has.

You may review issues related to the Formal Objection Council at


Tzviya Siegman
Information Standards Principal

-----Original Message-----
From: Manu Sporny <> 
Sent: Monday, October 11, 2021 10:37 PM
To: W3C Credentials CG <>
Subject: W3C Formal Objections: When Powerful Corporations Play Both Sides

⛔       This is an external email.

Hi folks,

Just giving this community a heads-up that the W3C Advisory Committee Meeting is tomorrow at 9am ET (you must be a W3C Member and an Advisory Committee Representative to attend, IIUC):*live__;Iw!!N11eV2iwtfs!6bJoscnPOotS2sALFESxKiyUDjYCgMQZDiNctGW14POMRbW74cx_F-Mt3JNyVA$

Based on the recent Google, Apple, and Mozilla objections to the DID Core specification becoming a global standard, I prepared the following open letter to the W3C Advisory Committee and kicked off a discussion with the 450+ W3C AC Members earlier today:;!!N11eV2iwtfs!6bJoscnPOotS2sALFESxKiyUDjYCgMQZDiNctGW14POMRbW74cx_F-NN5BWPlw$

Again, you can't see the discussion unless you're a W3C Member. I know that will be frustrating for most of you so I've set up a FAQ page to cover topics being discussed with the AC (without violating W3C Member confidentiality) here:;!!N11eV2iwtfs!6bJoscnPOotS2sALFESxKiyUDjYCgMQZDiNctGW14POMRbW74cx_F-NyHJqJ-A$

The original open letter that I sent can be found below. If you are a W3C AC Representative, please make sure to engage the AC to help educate them about the DID Core objections, the validity of the arguments, and your thoughts about how to proceed.


Fellow W3C Advisory Committee Representatives,

This is an open letter to each of you highlighting deep concerns with the new Director-free approach[1] to processing Formal Objections. Namely, the new process provides advantages to objectors that also sit on the same W3C Council that determines the outcome of formal objections. That is, per the new process, Google, Apple, and Mozilla get to object to a new standard for the Web and then could provide input on determining whether or not to uphold their own objection. The concern is not theoretical, it is occurring as you read this letter.

For those of you that might not be aware, here is a summary of the current state of play:

The W3C Decentralized Identifier (DID) Working Group[2] had consensus[3] to propose publication of DID Core 1.0[4] as a W3C Proposed Recommendation. There were 40 W3C Member companies that agreed to publication of DID Core 1.0 as a W3C Recommendation and there were 3 companies that objected: Google, Apple, and Mozilla. The W3C Team stepped in to mediate a discussion[6] that did not resolve the formal objections.

The acting W3C Director then decided to request feedback from the W3C Council[7], which is composed of the W3C Advisory Board and the W3C Technical Architecture Group, and take the new W3C Council Formal Objection resolution process for a spin. The Decentralized Identifier Working Group is deeply frustrated by this recent turn of events, but understands that someone needs to be the first through this new process.

There are four aspects of how this is playing out that are deeply concerning:

1. The objectors (Google, Apple, and Mozilla), and the proponents (over 40
companies) collectively hold 7 out of the 21 seats on the W3C Council. This enables 1/3rd of the W3C Council who are taking a position on the formal objection to engage in what is supposed to be an impartial process.

2. The new W3C Council Formal Objection Process gently suggests that individuals that might have a conflict of interest can voluntarily recuse themselves; the decision is left up to the individual. Apple has raised a formal objection and sits on both the W3C AB and W3C TAG; are both individuals expected to recuse themselves? I hope the answer to this question is "Yes, because the formal objection is on behalf of Apple and therefore, there is a conflict of interest." The same recusal issue applies to Google's representatives.

3. The W3C Team, who have a long and positive track record of striking the right balance when providing input into these sorts of decisions, have been stripped of any decision making authority.

4. Lastly, Google, Apple, and Mozilla made no attempt to bring their formal objections to the Decentralized Identifier Working Group since the Working Group started, and then during the first transition to Candidate Recommendation and then during the second transition to Candidate Recommendation. The first time the group heard of these objections during its two-year charter was in the days before the poll closed to approve DID Core
1.0 as a W3C Recommendation.

Given these concerns, the W3C Advisory Committee should provide some guidance to this new formal objection process, as all of us will experience what is going on now at some point if we don't resolve these issues as a community.

There are courses of action that we can take to resolve these concerns:

1. Make communicating with the W3C Council regarding the formal objection strictly off-limits outside of the formal objection process (public communication is allowed, non-public communication is disallowed). Violating this hard line should result in removal from the W3C TAG or W3C AB because it is an egregious violation of trust in our elected representatives.

2. Make recusal from the W3C Council decision mandatory for any individual that is associated on either side of the formal objection.

3. Ensure that the W3C Staff are a substantive part of the formal objection process, and not relegated to the sidelines as they seem to be in the new W3C Council-based process. They are a check and balance that we should be depending on as a community.

4. Strike down formal objections that made no attempt to engage with the Working Group. Allowing formal objections in the 11th hour accomplishes nothing other than stress, distrust, and drama -- three things we don't need more of at W3C. The W3C Process should be predictable, trustworthy, and boring.

I plan to bring all of this up during our upcoming W3C Advisory Committee meeting. We have some work to do if we want to ensure a smooth transition to handling Formal Objections via the W3C Council.

-- manu







Manu Sporny -;!!N11eV2iwtfs!6bJoscnPOotS2sALFESxKiyUDjYCgMQZDiNctGW14POMRbW74cx_F-OV10MZfA$

Founder/CEO - Digital Bazaar, Inc.
News: Digital Bazaar Announces New Case Studies (2021);!!N11eV2iwtfs!6bJoscnPOotS2sALFESxKiyUDjYCgMQZDiNctGW14POMRbW74cx_F-MzSMZ6gQ$

Received on Tuesday, 12 October 2021 16:25:27 UTC