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The Web-Related Working Groups

On This Page: Introduction | Working Drafts? | Draft Archive Sites | Discussion Lists | Working Group Lists

1. Introduction

Internet technologies, including those of the World Wide Web, are defined by the Internet Engineering Task force, which is the protocol engineering and development "arm" of the Internet. The actual work is done by semi-formal collaborative bodies called Working Groups. There are many dozens of these groups, covering everything from the HTML language to HTTP to new versions of the TCP/IP Internet protocols. There is a complicated mechanism for defining these standard, which start with working drafts, and ends with formal Request for Comments (RFC) documents which define accepted standards and protocols. The details of this process are outlined in the IETF review documents, found at the the IETF home page, at, http://www.ietf.cnri.reston.va.us/home.html. This contains a description of the IETF process and rules, as well as links to indexes of the complete catalog of Internet RFCs and draft specifications.

Formal Specifications

Formal specifications prepared by these groups are published as what are know as RFC, for Requests For Comments. For example, RFC 1866 is the formal specification for HTML Version 2. These are the documents that define the technologies used on the Internet. RFCs are stored, as plain text documents, at a number of Internet anonymous FTP archive sites. Information about finding and locating these documents is found in the official documents section of this collection. Basically, these documents are maintained as plain text files on special archive computer -- as an example, the specification for HTML 2.0, RFC1866, is found on one of these archive sites at the URL


Working drafts

Of course, drafts of these documents are distributed and discussed prior to being formalized as an RFC. These drafts are also stored on these archive computers, but have finite lifetimes -- they die off after 6 months unless there is consensus that the document is useful and correct. These drafts have long names to reflect the topic, author, and version. For example, the third draft by Dave Raggett on tables in HTML is entitled:
This can be found on one of the archive sites at the URL:

I attempt to maintain a list of current HTML-related internet drafts that are under active discussion. Please see the drafts overview docuement for a brief summary about the different documents, and their intended purpose

Draft Document Archive Sites

These documents are found, of course, on lots of other computers. The official archive sites are:
ftp.is.co.za (
nic.nordu.net (
ftp.nis.garr.it (
Pacific Rim
munnari.oz.au (
US East Coast
ds.internic.net (
US West Coast
ftp.isi.edu (

Discussion Lists

Working group work takes place over the internet, through mailing lists and personal correspondence. There are archives of these different lists, and you can go back and read the discussions that have taken place, and use these archives to keep up with what is being discussed (without yourself being subscribed to the lists). Information about the more popular lists and their archives is found at:

Working Group Lists

More formal are the various working-group discussion lists, where the experts really dig into the details of web issues. For example, the HTML Working group has a mailing list called html-wg, and a large collection of official documentation related to the group mandate. This information can be found at:
HTML Group - http://www.ics.uci.edu/pub/ietf/html/
while an electronic archive of the letters posted to this group can be found at:
Also of interest are the HTTP and URL/URI working groups. You can find information about these groups at the URLs:
HTTP Group - http://www.ics.uci.edu/pub/ietf/http/
URI Group - http://www.ics.uci.edu/pub/ietf/uri/

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© Ian S. Graham, 1994-1996