W3C pulls former Novell CTO for CEO spot

The former Novell CTO hopes to streamline the standards process at W3C

Filling a position left open since July 2009, former Novell CTO Jeffrey Jaffe has taken on the role of chief executive officer for the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium).

Jaffe will work alongside Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who will remain the organization's director. While Berners-Lee will concentrate primarily on the direction of the W3C's standards, Jaffe will look to streamline the W3C process of working with members.

The W3C establishes standards for Web technologies. With a membership of more than 350 organizations, a big part of what it does revolves around getting parties of different, even competing, interests to agree on things.

"Something I intend to put a lot of energy into is having an extremely open and active dialogue with all the stakeholders of W3C," Jaffe said in an interview. "W3C will have better engagement with the development community."

The job will require a lot of diplomacy, skills that Jaffe seems to have developed at Novell, where he worked as chief technology officer and executive vice president for products. He left that role at the end of January, following a companywide reorganization.

"If I look at where my time has been spent--a huge fraction has been cultivating significant partnerships; notably with Microsoft, SAP, and IBM," Jaffe wrote in a farewell post in his Novell blog.

Jaffe helped broker the company's high-profile partnership with competitor Microsoft, which he described in the Web page as an "arch-competitor" to Novell.

He expects these skills to come in handy at the new gig as well.

"One of the interesting things about the technology and business world is the diversity of partners and outlooks. Some companies have an open-source outlook. Some have a proprietary software perspective. There are large companies, medium companies, small companies. For the Web to work, it requires an environment of transparent openness and the ability to work with all types," he said.

Before working at Novell, Jaffe served as president for Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs Research and Advanced Technologies, and as a vice president for IBM.

The W3C has some challenges ahead. The standards body is developing the next generation of HTML, which will be able to better handle multimedia and application-level functionality. The W3C is also looking to extend the Web's reach, via mobile and low-cost devices, to as-yet-unconnected parts of the world.

"There are a large number of areas [of interest]. And that requires either more resources, more streamlined approaches of getting them done, or more priority calls. And so the operational focus of the organization becomes inseparable from what the priorities will be for the technical focus areas," he said.

W3C's last CEO, Steve Bratt, left the spot in 2008 to head the World Wide Web Foundation.

Jaffe, who reports for his first day Monday, will work from the W3C's Cambridge, Massachusetts, office.

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