Scope for a possible new SocialWeb (AP/AS2) W3C Working Group charter

Subject: Scope for a possible new SocialWeb (AP/AS2) W3C Working Group charter

Hi everyone,

Over the past week or so, there’s been some great discussion (both at TPAC and on the fediverse) about whether to work with W3C to charter a new Working Group (for example, for spec maintenance and errata purposes, although other scopes have been discussed as well).

I’d like to assure some of the concerned community members that a Working Group is not an end in and of itself. It’s just a tool (admittedly, a heavyweight and powerful one) to accomplish the goals of the community. And so, it makes sense to discuss and vote on specific scopes to a potential WG charter, and only kick off the process if there’s agreement on those scopes.

Here’s my example scope proposal, to start the discussion:

The SocialCG and the Fediverse community propose chartering a W3C Working Group for the purposes of specification maintenance of the ActivityPub and ActivityStreams 2 specifications.

In scope:

  • Integrating the errata and fixes that have accumulated to the AP/AS2 specs.
  • Minor normative changes or clarifications to those specs that document extensive implementation experience, and have strong agreement in the community group.

Out of WG scope (but remain in-scope for CG and FEPs):

  • Authentication and identity mechanics
  • Portability profiles (profile import/export)



All I want from possible specifications is that they come with

  • an automated test suite, that verifies at least every statement of the specification, i.e. MUST, SHOULD, …, once
  • a reference implementation that passes said test suite

I don’t know if such goals are what a W3C charter is about. However, I feel that aiming to get AP/AS2 up to that standard is a way forward to fix them without restricting oneself to “minor”.


Completely agree with you, regarding test suites! If a WG ends up getting formed, that will definitely be in the charter.

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Another, possibly too radical, suggestion on a path forward would be:

  • Release a variation of ActivityPub called “ActivityPub the Federation Protocol”

This would remove the stuff only meant for Client to Server and require the Sections 6 and 7 to speak of outgoing and incoming messages. So this would be a major undertaking. One should probably avoid making big changes for a first version though. – In particular, the hard testing / implementation requirement from my earlier post, might be needed to be relaxed –

The advantage is that this would lead to a specification document better representing what actually happens in the Fediverse.



For both of these items there’s still a lot of work to do. I think WG should let implementers explore different approaches and then pick winners.

This can be done outside of W3C, for example I consider ap-mincore a very good initiative: GitHub - steve-bate/activitypub-mincore: An exploration into an ActivityPub Minimal Core.

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I completely agree. However, the messaging is different if the W3C releases a “ActivityPub: the federation parts” than if I or @stevebate do.

On another note, a topic, I’d like to see the W3C take up is:

How to protect minorities in social online settings?

I’m thinking here more of something along the lines of WCAG 2 Overview | Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) | W3C than adding something to ActivityPub.


I think the diversity issue that has been raised is an unsolvable problem under the w3c WG structure.

The current best alternative is the FEPs.

I see one of two paths:

  1. Fediverse backs down, or compromised on, diversity
  2. FEPs become the primary extension mechanism. And living standard. With stable versions published at the W3C.
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I won’t claim that a W3C WG can fully solve that kind of problem, but diversity is a core value of W3C and the horizontal groups (in particular those concerned with accessibility) can help with this.

Note that, since 2020, the W3C process allows a form of “living standard” (see “allow new feature”).


I’m not sure this is what you mean, but I disagree with the approach of competing implementations among which a ‘winner’ would be ‘picked’ by the Working Group. First, because I envision cooperation among implementers, even if they experiment with various approaches. Second, there may not be a single ‘best’ approach to pick. Then, I do not think a WG of “people representing their employer” is the best venue for picking up implementations coming from the grassroots, where the protocols aim to defeat centralization created by those employers.

Yes, I do not see people here backing down nor compromising on diversity any time soon.

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There might have to be some kind of compromise. It is possible that the W3C CG could include diversity text in the charter and then vote on whether or not that satisfies the objection.

Identity and portability in Fediverse are complicated. I’ve been working on these things for quite some time and I still don’t know which approach is better.
I agree with you on cooperation vs competition and that there might be more than one “winner”.

I do really like this idea, and would be in favour of it, even though it may be off-topic here.

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