The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), founded in 1994 by World Wide Web (WWW) inventor Tim Berners-Lee, set out the list of international standards for web technologies. These standards help to maintain a consistent level of technical quality and compatibility over an extremely diverse platform and have the added benefit of simplifying the job of the web developer—ensuring they have a finite list of skills they need to learn.
The W3C standards describe the best practices of web development. These range from recommended programming languages such as HTML and CSS, to the generally accepted principles of web architecture and services.
Technologies that are listed as standards are, as far as the W3C is concerned, the most appropriate solutions currently available for mass use.
The W3C standards are not formally enforced, there is no legal penalty for ignoring their advice. In fact, there are instances when deviations from the standards are acceptable or even necessary in pursuit of a specific use case. However, generally speaking it is good practice to follow the guidelines.
If you want to learn more about the standards, head over to the W3CSchools (known as W3S) where you will find all sorts of W3C tutorials and other useful information about WWW technology.
The W3C first define the technology in terms of its use and usefulness. Then through a thorough vetting process that considers a number of overlapping technologies, one is designated the standard. The process promotes consensus, fairness, public accountability, and quality, in the hopes that the ‘best’ technology is chosen.
To be W3C-compliant is simple enough. They clearly note different categories of web tech and their uses, so if you have a project in mind, all you have to do is look up the relevant standards for you. As mentioned before, it’s important to make sure that the standard you chose has your desired functionality—while being W3C-compliant is good and often a selling point for products, it must also be appropriate for your project.
The standards set out but the W3C are invaluable because they ensure a fair and accessible web. Regardless of who you are, or where you are, if you create a web application using the standards, you know that it will work with all others that are W3C compliant, and you know that everyone can access it. Furthermore, they act as quality filters for both the developers and end-users. Developers can have confidence in the tools they are using, knowing they have been vetted by experts. Similarly, users will interact with applications built only with the best tools, so are more likely to have a positive and consistent experience.