W3C Formal Objections

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Full Title or Meme

The W3C has created a means to take a formal objection of any standard to the director.

An Example of such an Objection

Daniel Burnett: Philippe le Hégaret has joined us to update on objections to the DID Core Spec. 2021-10-06

Philippe le Hégaret: bad news (sorry)

  • had a call w/objectors to TR 2-3 weeks ago
  • did not manage to find common ground w/various folks
  • decided to send formal objection to W3C council, getting pulled into W3C as legal entity
  • advisory board has been working toward being director-free for some time, instead council w/advisory board & TAG members
  • in case of formal objection, analysis is sent up to council
  • have several formal objections to charters, DID is the only formal objection to a TR
  • have yet to see how council will do with this
  • this Thursday, AB will take formal objection on agenda and rule on it
  • could take a month/month and a half to get through
  • tricky bit is to get recusal within council, could end up leaving only people who don’t care or know as much
  • if the council can make a ruling, we’re good with new process; otherwise we need to go back to drawing board

Daniel Burnett: question about recusal; any process that allows the objectors to participate in a ruling is unacceptable

Philippe le Hégaret: this is the tricky bit, I hear you

  • every single formal objection triggers this; another one was a TAG participant
  • will write analysis, circulate it to each side, and send to council

Brent Zundel: very curious to know who instigated this extra-process of going to council

Philippe le Hégaret: director & myself

Brent Zundel: will interpret this as director using the council to help make his decision

Philippe le Hégaret: he hasn’t delegated his power to the council, director can still disagree

Drummond Reed don’t think any of us knew about this option; challenge is that those who are have been working on this are getting questions from customers about why this is happening

  • my question is: what’s public visibility of this process?

Philippe le Hégaret: fair question; if you look for a process, you will not find one, that’s part of the exercise to figure ou the process

  • visibility: received authorization to make almost all formal objections public; there was also the call, minutes will be made public
  • deliberations of council, believe they can be made public? not sure, process not set in stone; deliberations will be made public

Daniel Burnett: what, if anything, should we do? can we help the process move forward?

Philippe le Hégaret: sending one or more things through council, council should be able to make decision within month, month and a half at most

Ted Thibodeau Jr. charters may have been waiting longer, but they don’t have an expiration; how far is extension going to go?

  • what do we do if TR is rejected?

Philippe le Hégaret: extending charters as necessary (both DID/VC), if no decision, more extension

  • you guys did everything in the process you were asked to do, WG did nothing wrong in process
  • technical perspective, remains to be determined

Daniel Burnett: there is some follow-on work that is depending on this, other charters, etc

  • is everything put on hold until this is resolved?
  • will there be a way for us to provide input to this council, particularly if the recusal process results in objectors remaining on the council

Philippe le Hégaret: yes; will happily share analysis, anyone is welcome to correct, disagreements are welcome to be written/submitted

  • last time, council invited co-chairs to present directly to the council, likely to happen again
  • council will be welcoming feedback on process, especially recusal issues; it’s recognized as a potential problem from the start

Daniel Burnett: this has gone on way longer than other items, but it’s important.

Pamela Dingle: do you expect transparency over who forms council, who recuses, and whether or not they’ve been voting members in the WG?

Philippe le Hégaret: council is composed of AB & TAG members, it’s public information

  • eg, Amy (a document editor) is by default recused in the council, don’t know who’s recused
  • would be surprised if information is not public

Michael Prorock: what actual questions are coming up from the formal objection side that can be taken back to the WG to address?

  • related: payments spec is up for vote, directly uses blockchain, why is that not being held to the same standards?

Philippe le Hégaret: nothing WG can do to satisfy them short of waiting until DID methods are standardized … would surprise me if WG did that

Michael Prorock: they do not feel standardizing did:key & did:web would be sufficient anyway

Philippe le Hégaret: correct, but correct me if I’m wrong, it’s what I understand from the objectors … did:key & did:web are not decentralized enough

Michael Prorock: did:key is decentralized as possible, would a technical read of that help address their concerns?

Philippe le Hégaret: I doubt it

  • Mozilla made formal objection public already, I don’t think there’s anything this group can do
  • Mozilla objected to original charter

Michael Prorock: second question, why is DID WG being used as test case to push environmental concerns

  • I agree withholding ourselves to higher standard
  • reality is, payments group is up for vote
  • DIDs are using existing infrastructure indirectly
  • why are same standards not being applied to payments group?
  • browser vendors want to support payments within their platforms, but want to block smaller tech

Philippe le Hégaret: if there are formal objections we will receive them in the next few weeks

  • would be surprised to see objections on the same grounds
  • none of the current implementations rely on bitcoin; it could be used, but it’s not the case today
  • besides, who said that you have to be consistent, from one objection to another? you can disagree with yourself within a month ;)
  • I don’t guarantee payments will go through smoothly

Markus Sabadello: thank you for explaining that process

  • in this process, is there any role for advisory committee and rest of member organizations?
  • 3 objections but 40 in favor, how does that fit in?

Philippe le Hégaret: right now we are at the phase of whether to sustain or override the formal objection

  • director decided to get input from the council
  • once the director’s decision is made we can still file objections to director’s decision
  • AC can request to overrule director
  • AB is always open to hear from members
  • environmental concerns: we agree we should look into this further, it’s up to the director; everyone is interested in solving the problem

Daniel Burnett: do you believe the director’s request to do this is because the director specifically needs input, or is this an opportunity because of the nature of the request & who’s involved to see whether the proposed future director-free plan will work?

Philippe le Hégaret: speculating here, I think it’s more the latter (to see if the process will work)

  • once we are director-free, too late to say we don’t like the roles
  • hope that we see this as part of process 2022
  • I encourage you to comment on the whole experience with the council

Daniel Burnett: we may be discouraged with the delay, this isn’t indicative of greater concern with this specific work

Philippe le Hégaret: correct, this WG did everything by the charter

  • it’s an opportunity to test how we go director-free

Ted Thibodeau Jr.:: Comment here on evolving DRAFT Director-Free process – https://github.com/w3c/w3process/tree/director-free

Brent Zundel: appreciate the recognition; we did everything according to charter and process, but objectors didn’t

  • objectors had opportunity to object during two separate CR’s, they didn’t
  • this is very frustrating; I speak for more than myself

Drummond Reed add myself to brent’s voice, already a lot of people depending on this

  • being seen from the outside as classic back-room politics; v. small group is overriding a majority, with 2 years of work so i think you can appreciate the level of frustration that this causes for us.

Ryan Grant: +1

Philippe le Hégaret: appreciate you bringing that up

  • some did not formally object before, but did now
  • process allows them to do that; but director/council can take that into account when ruling this
  • understand the frustration
  • timing-wise, it’s not like we’re missing opportunities
  • the timing of the decision is always a consideration of the Director’s
  • if you believe the objection is causing harm because of the delay, I encourage you to
  • mention that to the director. It would be useful input, on that front.
  • regarding the VC charter, the reason it’s getting delayed, is we were waiting on Brent
  • to do a draft of the VC charter before sending to the committee.
  • But as you pointed out, you’re waiting to see what happens with the DID WG charter,
  • before knowing what the new VC charter should have.

Daniel Burnett: the result of this (DID spec) is important outside of W3C, and will be watched very closely.

  • I know this kind of stuff happens (this is not the only WG/Standards Group where this has occurred),
  • but I just want to reiterate that there are many industries that could be harmed because of the delay.

Philippe le Hégaret: unfortunately, that added importance, makes it that much more important for us to

  • observe what the committee does.

Brent Zundel: I want to raise the concern that VCs and DIDs represent a distinct methodology for handling digital

  • identity, that is in direct opposition to some standards that are already being adopted and folded into
  • the technologies of the formal objectors. Any delays in our spec directly serve the business interests
  • of the objectors, since it affects competing standards.

Philippe le Hégaret: unfortunately, that is very often the case. Formal objections like that get heated very quickly.

  • I will do my best to ensure council and the director makes the decision as soon as possible.
  • I’m sorry you’re getting caught in this.

Brent Zundel: I appreciate everything you’re doing, Philippe. My ability to believe that the other side is acting in good faith is rapidly fading.

Orie Steele: are all formal objections to specs going to the council? Or just specific ones?

Philippe le Hégaret: at the moment, all formal objections will be sent to council.

  • we have 4 charters being caught up in this right now.

Drummond Reed: there’s a very specific reality (both DIDs and VCs are affected) – ISO has a spec for Mobile Drivers Licenses,

  • that is being widely perceived as a competitor to VCs and DIDs. And we know some of the objectors have strong
  • business interests in the adoption of MDLs. So, it raises ethical questions in our mind, not just in objecting
  • to competing tech, but in favoring the specification of a competing standards body (W3C vs ISO).

Philippe le Hégaret: neither the Director or I knew about that part. If you believe this should affect the decision,

  • I encourage you to write to myself and the Director.

Drummond Reed: will do

Daniel Burnett: this goes for everyone, if you believe there are critical items for Philippe and the Director, please send them.

Brent Zundel: Thank you Philippe for joining us today