Welcoming the new kid: Web Platform Docs

Documenting the open Web and Web standards is a big job! As Mozillians, we’re well aware of this — documenting the open Web has been the mission of the Mozilla Developer Network for many years. Anything we can do to further the cause of a free and open Web is a worthwhile endeavor. With so many different groups involved in the design and development of new Web standards, it can be tricky to figure out the current right way to use them. That’s why we’re excited to be able to share this news with you.

Introducing Web Platform Docs

Mozilla, along with a group of major Web-related organizations convened by the World-Wide Web Consortium (W3C), has announced the start of Web Platform Docs (WPD), a new documentation site for Web standards documentation, which will be openly-licensed and community-maintained. The supporting organizations, known as the “stewards,” have contributed an initial batch of content to the site from their existing resources. The body of content is very much in an alpha state, as there is much work to be done to integrate, improve, and augment that content. to achieve the vision of WPD as a comprehensive and authoritative source for Web developer documentation. The stewards want to open the site for community participation as early as possible. With your help, WPD can achieve its vision being a comprehensive and authoritative source for Web developer documentation.

Web Platform Docs has a similar goal to MDN: to help web developers improve their ability to make sites and applications using web standards. Mozilla welcomes this effort and joins with the other stewards in financially supporting the Web Platform Docs project, and in providing seed content for it. This new project is very much aligned with Mozilla’s mission to promote openness, innovation, and opportunity on the Web.

What does this mean for MDN?

MDN already provides a wealth of information for Web developers and for developers who use or contribute to Mozilla technology. That isn’t going to change. Some members of the MDN community, including both paid staff and volunteers, are actively involved with the Web Platform Docs project. Web Platform Docs incorporates some seed content from MDN, namely tutorial and guide content. Anyone is welcome to use MDN content under its Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC-BY-SA), whether on WPD or elsewhere.

Licensing issues

Licensing is where things get a little bit complicated. MDN and WPD use different contributor agreements and different licenses for reuse. By default, WPD contributors grant W3C the ability to relicense their original content under an open license (Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY)). MDN content is licensed by the contributors under CC-BY-SA. The copyright belongs to the contributors, not to Mozilla, so we don’t have the right to change the license. Therefore, content that originates from MDN must be specially marked and attributed when it appears on WPD. If you create an account on WPD and create a new page, you’ll see that there is an option to indicate that the content you’re contributing came from MDN, and to provide the original URL on MDN. If you do copy MDN content (and we would be happy if you did so), we ask that you comply with the license requirements. There is also a way on WPD to mark sections of articles as coming from MDN, for cases where they get merged into CC-BY content.

Get involved

We encourage all Mozillians to visit the Web Platform Docs site, take a look, and get involved. By working with the other stewards to jointly build a complete, concise, and accurate suite of documentation of and for Web standards, we can help make the future of the World Wide Web brighter than ever!


  1. Schalk Neethling

    This is awesome that this is going to be launched finally. I have involved with it since the inception when it was still just a pretty ugly wiki on the W3C. While still a wiki, a lot has gone into making this really a visually and mentally stimulating experience.

    Everyone should jump in and contribute here and I hop this resource is going to get a lot more people making things on the web.

    October 8th, 2012 at 08:48

    1. Janet Swisher

      Thanks for your support!

      October 8th, 2012 at 10:39

  2. Julian Viereck

    In case I write some new documentation on WebAPIs, should I do this only for WPD, only for MDN or both? Placing the same documentation at two different places is not the issue as long as there is some mechanism involved to keep the docs synced.

    Given the incompatibility of the license, this might cause issues as changes made to MDN under CC-BY-SA are not able to get merged into CC-BY.

    October 8th, 2012 at 10:47

    1. Janet Swisher

      There is not currently an automated way to keep docs synched between the two sites. That might change in the future, but there are no specific plans yet. That means that any synching would have to done manually. I can certainly understand if contributors choose to work on only one site or the other, rather than update things twice.

      WPD allows an exception for CC-BY-SA content from MDN and similar sources (where “similar” means a high-quality body of content where there is not a single copyright holder who can contribute it). The CC-BY-SA content has to be specially marked, as noted in the article.

      Ultimately, it is up to you where you want to contribute. The WPD reuse license is less restrictive, but the Contributor Agreement grants gives greater rights to the site host than does MDN. It depends on what you are comfortable with.

      October 9th, 2012 at 08:57

  3. HTeuMeuLeu

    The sentence “This new project is very much aligned with Mozilla’s mission to promote openness, innovation, and opportunity on the Web” is written twice in the same paragraph.

    Anyway : good work, and very good initiative !

    October 8th, 2012 at 12:28

    1. Janet Swisher

      It was so important, we said it twice! Fixed now. Thanks.

      October 8th, 2012 at 12:31

  4. David Mulder


    hehe, enough said :P

    But seriously, why didn’t you import mostly everything from mozilla in the first place then? And from the other respective sites add well?

    October 8th, 2012 at 13:14

  5. Jay Patel

    I’m excited to see this come to fruition. Congratulations to everyone that has been involved in this from the early days. It’s going to be an awesome resource, with a lot of MDN contributed content I’m sure. :-)

    October 9th, 2012 at 00:34

  6. Karel Jára

    I haven’t found any localisation features on the page. Is it (going to be) implemented? This would be a serious regression in comparison with MDN, wouldn’t it.

    October 9th, 2012 at 03:40

    1. Schalk Neethling

      Hey Karel,

      Yes, currently there is no localization support but, this is in the works and will be available very soon.

      October 9th, 2012 at 05:58

  7. Jerzy

    What’s the rationale to make a clone of MDN, rather than extend it? Isn’t MDN already a wiki?

    October 9th, 2012 at 12:49

    1. Janet Swisher

      Yes, they are both wikis, but they are not clones. WPD has support and content from a much wider range of organizations than MDN. (Though we greatly appreciate the content that Google has contributed to MDN over the past couple of years.)

      MDN is still here, and we are planning to keep improving it, in features, in content, and in our process for updating it.

      October 9th, 2012 at 14:29

  8. Ken Saunders

    Hi folks,

    I’m very happy and excited to see this. It is very Mozilla- esque. Congrats.

    I spent some time on the site yesterday and while I realize that it is in an alpha stage, there are some basic issues (some pertaining to accessibility, styling, etc) that should be addressed along with others and one I encountered during registration.
    There currently doesn’t appear to be any type of bug reporting and management system for the site.
    Is there one, or will there be one?

    My only option was to post the issues in the perhaps, not so accurately named forum and write them in the form of a question so that Alex Trebek wouldn’t get annoyed. :)

    Those questions are answered by other site members which would be fine if the answers were from someone of authority or from someone that provided accurate and/or useful answers rather than members appearing to be trying to rack up points.

    I’ll gladly contribute when time permits as a Mozilla and open web supporter, so please advice me on how to do so.

    October 9th, 2012 at 13:56

    1. Janet Swisher

      Bugs for the new site are tracked in W3C’s Bugzilla (which is down for maintenance as I type this, but will be up soon). Links to the bug tracker are being added in more prominent places, along with links to the discussion mailing list. There is also an IRC channel (#webplatform on irc.freenode.org), but it’s a little noisy at the moment.

      October 9th, 2012 at 14:05

  9. Ken Saunders

    Thanks Janet.

    October 9th, 2012 at 14:30

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