The W3C has announced WebPlatform Docs, a "community-driven site that aims to become a comprehensive and authoritative source for web developer documentation". With the backing of Adobe, Facebook, Google, HP, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nokia, Opera and others, an alpha release is now live; the site is designed to enable web professionals to save time and resources by consulting with confidence a single site for current, cross-browser and cross-device coding best practices.
W3C head of marketing and communications Ian Jacobs told .net discussions began a year ago, and although the W3C's focus has traditionally been standards, the organisation has "always known people need additional materials – primers, material that puts all the pieces together – and we have done some ourselves, but it has not been our focus". This latest project is, he said, "part of a larger effort to work more closely with developers".
In a sense, the starting point appears to be 'Wikipedia for web developers', since anyone can contribute and update the site, but "stewards and W3C are also dedicating staff and money to help keep the site up-to-date".
All the major players
.net noticed some similarities with another online project, W3C's own Education Wiki, which started life at Opera, and Jacobs confirmed some of the same people are involved with WebPlatform Docs. One such figure is Opera Developer Relations Manager Chris Mills, now also Opera's representative on the WebPlatform Docs stewards committee, along with being a content overseer.
Mills told .net previous documentation sites were problematic, for example lacking resources and therefore being unmaintainable, or compromising content through a lack of expertise or through exhibiting bias. "But this project is supported and curated by the W3C, all major browser vendors, and some other major web players, such as Facebook and Nokia," he continued. "We have provided guaranteed funding and personnel resources for a number of years, enough technical and editorial expertise to sink a battleship and, more importantly, a meeting of minds to even things out with a neutral standpoint. This is potentially the Holy Grail of web documentation sites."
What Mills is most excited about, though, is WebPlatform Docs being a community effort. "We want and need the whole community to come on board and help us shape the documentation into something fabulous," he said. "It's not us big web giants telling people what to do – it's everyone's web platform. Anyone can choose to come on board and contribute to the material."