I've been following these organizations (institutes, entities, whatever) for near 3 months now, and both of them claim that they're trying to make the Internet a better place. They're creating documents under the name of RFC (for IETF) and Recommendation (for W3C) to guide others.

Yet another organization called WHATWG has started another path to develop web, and another community is in action under the title of Internet Society.

I don't know, why many organizations? I mean, can't they simply get merged? Are they really different? How?

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    We should create a new organization to replace those and do it better and more unified. Oh wait...
    – user7043
    Sep 20, 2011 at 13:12
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    @delnan, good comic. But this is a real concern. You see that IETF defined UTF-8, then W3C defines XML, then WHATWG defined HTML5. I mean, don't you feel something's wrong? Sep 20, 2011 at 14:15
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    "don't you feel something's wrong"? Wrong with what? A single, centralized "good idea authority" doesn't seem possible. How could that work? All the smart people have to (a) work for it and (b) agree. Isn't that a bit silly?
    – S.Lott
    Sep 20, 2011 at 14:17
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    of all these, IETF is the clear winner, see RFC 1149
    – gnat
    Sep 20, 2011 at 15:04
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    And this one, too: ietf.org/rfc/rfc2324.txt
    – S.Lott
    Sep 20, 2011 at 15:33

2 Answers 2


IETF works on Internet protocols, particularly at OSI layer 3 and 4.

As you may or may not know, the Internet comprises more than the WWW, which is simply an application-layer protocol. The W3C works on WWW specifications.

  • The WWW is not a protocol. It "is an open source information space where documents and other web resources are identified by URLs, interlinked by hypertext links, and can be accessed via the Internet.[" according to the Wikipedia. :(
    – lfree
    Jan 18, 2016 at 3:08
  • What are the WWW specifications? IETF -> HTTP/TCP/IP, W3C -> HTTP,CSS,Javascript(?) May 18, 2022 at 16:01
  • It looks like I was right except for Javascript, which w3c says is developed by another company. May 18, 2022 at 17:44
  • The IETF also works on OSI layers above 4. See, for example, the work of the IETF's Applications and Real-Time Area (art).
    – glyn
    Jan 12 at 4:07

IETF focuses on packet/line/terminal/telnet based protocols.

W3C adresses SGML/HTML/XML inspired stuff.

You may also be interested in IEEE, an organization that instead loves communications on the physical layer. (with frequencies/tensions/radio-waves and all that oscilloscoping stuff)

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    The statement about the IEEE isn't true. Their Computer Society focuses on all aspects of software development, including (but not limited to) communication protocols, web development, and distributed applications. Other societies or groups do have different focuses, including hardware and radio communication.
    – Thomas Owens
    Sep 20, 2011 at 19:50
  • Edited, now they just LOVE doing physical layer stuff.
    – ZJR
    Sep 20, 2011 at 20:46
  • @Owens Just curious: got some example of relevant non-physical layer standards from IEEE?
    – ZJR
    Sep 20, 2011 at 20:47
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    @ZJR: IEEE 802.1, 802.2, 802.11v, 802.15.3b, 802.17b, and 802.21, to name just a few. Quite a few more specify a MAC layer along with the PHY. Sep 20, 2011 at 21:38
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    @ZJR: OSI layer 3 is the networking layer, e.g. IP and IPX. It is NOT tightly coupled with layers 1 and 2. As I said, go read a good book before mouthing off like that. You don't see the rest of us going to a surgery message board and talking nonsense about appendectomies. Sep 21, 2011 at 6:24

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