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Re: [nick@webthing.com: W3C implicit endorsement of commercial products]

From: Judy Brewer <jbrewer@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2002 01:34:16 -0400
Message-Id: <>
To: Nick Kew <nick@webthing.com>
Cc: site-comments@w3.org

Dear Nick,

>Date: Wed, 7 Aug 2002 18:10:02 +0100 (BST)
>From: Nick Kew <nick@webthing.com>
>To: <site-comments@w3.org>
>Subject: W3C implicit endorsement of commercial products
>I have raised this issue verbally on several occasions, and it has
>been suggested that I post here.

For WAI-specific site issues you can post more directly to 
wai-site-comments@w3.org; however, site-comments (the address you posted 
to) also eventually gets to us.

>My Site Valet service has offered online HTML accessibility analysis
>for over two years.  Since about the beginning of 2002, it has
>offered an altogether more detailed and comprehensive assesment
>against the WCAG and US Section 508 guidelines than any other
>service available online.  This has been built using my own very
>limited resources, with no support or sponsorship.
>All the time, I am struggling with the fact that another service,
>Bobby, appears to have W3C endorsement, and is therefore taken as an
>automatic choice by all but the handful of developers with sufficient
>expertise to make their own judgement of different products.  The
>recommendation to use Bobby on numerous pages at w3.org[1]
>has effectively excluded me, as a developer without the
>backing of a marketing department, from consideration amongst
>non-specialist developers who should be the main target market
>for my own work.  So long as this situation persists, it is
>likely to continue to kill off any innovation not backed by
>a major corporation.

WAI maintains a list of over 30 evaluation and repair tools
including yours. Bobby's existence, and its familiarity to many users, 
pre-dates WAI; and Bobby was actively and consistently promoted by CAST, 
resulting in international familiarity, including among organizations that 
had not heard of W3C/WAI.

While WAI does not endorse any single evaluation tool, we are aware that 
particularly on some of our older Web pages, written when there were few 
evaluation tools available, Bobby may be cited as a sole example. We are in 
the process of changing these pages.

>I would cite as cases in point the UK government guidelines
>(having spoken at some length to the office of the e-envoy,
>they told me they recommend Bobby precisely because it is
>recommended by W3C), and in contrast a local developer with
>a strong interest in usability, who had previously only heard
>of Bobby, but instantly appreciated the superiority of Valet
>when she saw it.
>Now this is in sharp contrast to W3C's stated policy of being
>industry-neutral, which has been cited to me at various times,
>and which I would be very happy to accept if it was adhered to
>in practice.  A recommendation of a particular product on such
>crucial pages as the WCAG guidelines carries such weight that
>it must surely at the very least be kept under constant review.

We do not to my knowledge link to Bobby from WCAG 1.0. (See below.)

>Can I suggest that the W3C pages be reviewed as a matter of
>urgency?  The review should take into consideration the fact
>that this situation has existed for several years - and may
>indeed have been justified in the 1990s - and has led to a
>situation where "everyone knows" that Bobby is "the official
>Thank you for your attention.
>[1] A simple Google search turns up a long list, including for example,
>     the WCAG guidelines page at <URL:http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/>.

We can find no link to Bobby from the WCAG 1.0 Guidelines at

We will, however, review the WAI site within the next several weeks to 
review the status of reference links to evaluation tools.

Thank you for your comments,

- Judy

>Nick Kew

Judy Brewer    +1.617.258.9741    http://www.w3.org/WAI
Director, Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
MIT/LCS Room NE43-355, 200 Technology Square, Cambridge, MA,  02139,  USA
Received on Monday, 19 August 2002 01:35:14 UTC

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