Open Web Docs Impact and Transparency Report 2021

Executive Summary

At the end of 2021, Open Web Docs is a
collective of 9 organizations and employs 4 full-time Senior Technical
Writers who have extensive experience with Web standards documentation
and MDN Web Docs.

The collective received $790,000 in donations from
organizations and 130 people backed or donated to Open Web Docs

Open Web Docs’ main focus has been contributions to MDN
Web Docs, the premier platform for Web platform documentation. It is
estimated that it has about 18 million monthly users and therefore OWD
contributions reach the vast majority of web developers.

In September 2021, OWD staff were responsible for
nearly half of the commits and more than half of the reviews to the
mdn/content GitHub repository.

Open Web Docs, working with a growing set of organizations getting
involved in supporting MDN Web Docs, has established a quarterly
prioritization process to work on key infrastructure and content work.
Projects in 2021 included: Migrating MDN content to Markdown,
Collaborating with the W3C to integrate specification data into browser
compatibility data (BCD) and MDN, co-leadership for the BCD project,
improvements to the information architecture of API docs, making API
docs more beginner friendly, and documenting WebXR.


In October 2020, Open Web Docs was created by Coil,
Google, Microsoft, Samsung, the W3C, Jory Burson, and Florian Scholz,
followed by the public launch on January 25, 2021. Created to ensure the
long-term health of web platform documentation on critical resources
like MDN Web Docs, independently of any single vendor or organization.
Through full-time staff, community management, and a network of partner
organizations, Open Web Docs enables these resources to better maintain
and sustain documentation of core web platform technologies. Rather than
create new documentation sites, Open Web Docs is committed to improving
existing platforms through our contributions.

Public launch

On January 25, 2021, Open Web Docs was launched publicly with an
overall very positive reaction from the Web community. The
473,760 impressions, and the launch blog
over 25,000 views. There are now 147
contributors on Open
the Twitter account
1,915 followers and the project repository has
298 stars on
OWD also spent a long time being the #1 news on Hacker News
and the story was picked up on over
20 international press sites.

Organizational growth

In 2021, the following organizations joined the Open
Web Docs collective and actively participated in OWD committees.

Initial members:

Additional members:

This increases the total number of organizations participating to
9 from the initial 6
organizations. Open Web Docs
provided an entry point for these organizations to get involved with Web
platform documentation and contributing to MDN Web Docs. The regular
exchange of knowledge and expertise has been very beneficial for all
parties involved.


“We are honored to support the Open Web Docs initiative as it
leads the way in shaping the future of inclusive, extensive and quality
web documentation.”
Staff Developer Advocate, Facebook


“Accessible, high-quality documentation benefits all web
developers, and we’re excited to support Open Web Docs and its mission.
It’s been fantastic to see the progress made in this first
Philip Jägenstedt, Staff
Software Engineer


“We are proud to support Open Web Docs to help secure
sustainable, browser-agnostic, community-driven web developer
Kyle Pflug, Principal Group PM Manager, Microsoft Edge

Samsung Internet:

“We’re proud to be
Open Web Docs to help ensure high quality cross-browser documentation
for the web.“
Dan Appelquist, Head of Developer Advocacy


“MDN provides a critical service to Web developers
world-wide, and W3C is proud to have helped with getting Open Web Docs
in place to provide broader and resilient community support to this
mission, and elated by the progress accomplished in just a few months”.
Dominique Hazael-Massieux, W3C

OWD staff team

The Open Web Docs Governing Committee successfully hired
four talented Technical Writers & Developer
Advocates with prior experience of Web Standards
documentation and MDN Web Docs:

Florian Scholz and Will Bamberg were hired to preserve
talent from the former Mozilla MDN Content team. The public and open
hiring process for positions 3 and 4 was started in April 2021 and was
completed in August 2021, with Jean-Yves Perrier and Estelle Weyl
joining the team.

The first quarter with a full workforce will be Q4

Diversity & Inclusion

Fostering diversity and inclusion in the tech industry is a core
value for Open Web Docs. We have put in place a
diversity & inclusion
what events and communities we will participate in and we have signed on
to the Diversity
Our intention is that our program of work, including what we put effort
into and how we prioritise our activities, will also reflect this core

Steering committee

The Open Web Docs Steering
of two representatives from each participating organization and the OWD
staff team. The group holds weekly meetings for which
meeting notes are available throughout the
The OWD Steering Committee operates in the open with
vendor neutral prioritization
has an open prioritization process involving all Steering Committee
members on a quarterly

OWD brand & public channels

Open Web Docs represents a community of Technical Writers and
advocates for the Open Web. In 2021, the focus hasn’t been
to build a strong succinct brand and voice. OWD
amplified and supported projects like MDN Web Docs and the Open Web in
general via our growing channels:

To keep OWD backers apprised of ongoing work, monthly worklog
posts are published
The OWD team also participates as invited guests on podcasts and
presents at Web related conferences. The JS Party podcast is an example
for this:

Contributions to MDN Web Docs

Open Web Docs’ main focus has been contributions to MDN
Web Docs, the premier platform for Web platform documentation. It is
estimated that it has about 18 million monthly users and therefore OWD
contributions reach the vast majority of web developers.

Open Web Docs is also interested in addressing web development
pain points as identified by the MDN Web DNA
is working with browser vendors and Steering Committee members alike to
identify and solve these problems. With web compatibility being the
number one web developer pain point, a focus has been to contribute to
mdn/browser-compat-data (“BCD”)
in particular (a sub-project of MDN Web Docs).

Daniel Beck, MDN Web Docs Content Lead at

“OWD is an important partner in the day-to-day
operational success of MDN Web Docs as an open source documentation
project. Without OWD’s contributions, a range of efforts, from Markdown
conversion to routine pull request reviews, would be slowed or delayed.
OWD’s participation means that MDN is a richer, more dynamic project
that it would be otherwise.

Above and beyond that, OWD, through its working
relationship with MDN and the collegial atmosphere of the OWD steering
committee, brings together a range of perspectives on the web as a
developer platform. The community, effort, and documentation shared
between MDN and OWD give form to Mozilla’s mission “to ensure the
Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to

Day-to-day work

On a daily basis, the Open Web Docs staff team
contributes to the open source repositories of the MDN Web Docs GitHub
organization. The contributions can come in many forms (creating pull
requests, filing issues, reviewing pull requests, participating in
discussions, triaging issues) on a handful of repositories that are
foundational to MDN Web Docs.

In this document, two categories of contributions are
presented in more detail: Commits to mdn/content and reviews of pull
requests on mdn/content.

Commits to mdn/content

The following chart summarises, for each month from February to
December 2021, the number of commits to mdn/content made by every individual
who made more than 10 commits in that
month[1]. It assigns each
individual to one of four groups:

It then sums the commits made by members of group to
get an idea of that group’s contributions to mdn/content, as measured by
number of commits:

February March April May June July August September October November December
OWD 11 11 33 134 129 163 200 134 167 60 24
Mozilla 148 126 100 158 90 64 96 52 54 38 41
W3C 30 44 56 41 71 48 55 11 0 0 19
Other 71 87 60 73 32 54 110 91 96 29 45

Commits to MDN in 2021 by origin
Commits to MDN in Feb 2021 by origin
Commits to MDN in Sep 2021 by origin

Mozilla's lower activity is due to a change of staff, with a
position that took several months to backfill; in parallel, Open Web
Docs was building its workforce, compensating for it, illustrating the
resilience that OWD aims to provide to the ecosystem.

Pull request reviews & supporting MDN’s move to GitHub

Until 2020, MDN was a Wiki which anyone could edit
without any review. This made it very hard to maintain the quality of
the documentation, but also meant external contributions were not
blocked by getting reviews from maintainers.

In 2020, MDN content
moved into
mdn/content GitHub
repo, meaning that all contributions would be in the form of pull
requests needing manual review before merging. One of the main concerns
around this was: would the PR review workload be sustainable for
MDN’s maintainers?

To keep MDN open and enable community contributions it’s essential
to be responsive to pull requests, so reviewing and merging pull
requests became a critical part of OWD’s work,
and a careful review of these pull requests is essential to preserving
MDN’s quality.

A year in from the GitHub move we can say that
MDN has successfully and sustainably managed the PR review

How much has OWD contributed to this? The mdn/content
PR review team can be seen as comprising four groups:

Since the start of the year, the number of PR reviews made by each
group, per month, is as follows:

February March April May June July August September October November December
OWD 48 98 163 187 190 252 296 311 363 358 190
Mozilla 279 228 177 202 118 111 132 119 117 128 136
W3C 146 170 120 101 326 228 203 114 18 18 156
Other 58 53 63 54 36 60 57 34 109 59 40

PR Reviews for MDN in 2021 by origin
PR Reviews for MDN in Feb 2021 by origin
PR Reviews for MDN in Sep 2021 by origin


In addition to the day-to-day contributions to MDN Web Docs,
Open Web Docs works with its Steering Committee to identify
and invest in more substantive quarterly projects to address structural
needs or important gaps in the documentation coverage. In 2021, this
meant leading major content infrastructure and writing projects.

Completed projects

OWD completed the following major projects in 2021.

Converting MDN content to Markdown

In Q2 and Q3 Open Web Docs led a project to switch the
authoring format for mdn/content from HTML to GitHub-Flavored

HTML is a great language for Web pages but a difficult
format for writing or reviewing documentation. Switching to a more
readable format is essential for MDN's long-term sustainability. OWD led
this major infrastructure project, probably the biggest change to MDN
content in its history. The OWD staff:

In October we finished converting MDN pages to Markdown, with the exception
of a few pages which we intend to migrate off MDN in the near future.

We think this project has made it very much easier to write MDN documentation,
both for experienced writing staff and for volunteers.

Integrating W3C data into MDN and BCD

Open Web Docs drives the inclusion of data into
documentation, creating and enhancing existing data, and making such
data accessible outside of MDN’s content. Work in this field has been
done in close collaboration with the W3C, a provider of Web platform
data. Other organizations have provided feedback into this process as
well as data about the Web platform is of interest to browser vendors,
developer tooling products, and others alike.

Throughout the year, and together with the W3C, Open Web Docs
worked on updating MDN Web Docs’
Specification sections. MDN
reference pages use this section to link to the relevant specifications
for a Web platform feature. Unfortunately, these sections were outdated
most of the time and not machine readable. The manually maintained HTML
tables were also getting in the way of the
MDN’s conversion to

Thanks to the data from
w3c/browser-specs and
adding spec_urls to the browser-compat-data project, MDN’s
specification links are now validated and up-to-date. A renderer was
added to Yari
(MDN’s backend) allowing for
future enhancements to all
Specification sections
at once in the future.

Open Web Docs has also started to investigate integrating and
working with additional data for documentation using the
w3c/webref project
and working with WebIDL files. Long term, Open Web Docs envisions
MDN as a provider of structured

MDN browser-compat-data (BCD) contributions

Throughout 2021, Florian Scholz continued to act as a
co-owner of the mdn/browser-compat-data project and helped Daniel Beck
(Mozilla) run the project that powers the compatibility tables on MDN
and Owning this open source project means helping with
making strategic decisions, managing releases, and enabling the project
to its full potential.

Major contributions to BCD in 2021 project

Fixing mixins

"Mixins", in MDN's Web API documentation, represent interfaces that are
not themselves instantiable, but are inherited by multiple interfaces that are
instantiable. For example, the WindowOrWorkerGlobalScope mixin contains
properties that are available in both the Window and the Worker interface.

Since mixins are not instantiable and in some cases represent internal
implementation choices, they are confusing to users and should not be surfaced
in MDN's documentation.

Although in theory mixins avoid duplication, in practice the implementation of
a mixin in a given interface should have its own documentation anyway (for
example, code samples should use the concrete interface).

This project eliminated mixins by separating out the properties they listed and
documenting these properties in the concrete inheriting interfaces.

Beginner friendly documentation: syntax boxes

To make documentation easier to understand and more
welcoming to new and aspiring web developers and designers world-wide,
Open Web Docs continuously investigates how to make content more
accessible to beginners.

In Q2 2021, Open Web Docs worked on a
project to
make MDN reference pages more readable and easier to understand by
beginners by simplifying MDN’s syntax
sections. This change affected all of the
JavaScript and Web APIs pages.

Open Web Docs aims to further simplify the MDN
reference pages overall, making them useful to a beginner audience and
offering a benefit to reading specifications that are targeted at
implementers and industry professionals.

Documenting WebXR on MDN

WebXR is a group of standards which are used together to support
rendering 3D scenes to hardware designed for presenting virtual worlds
(virtual reality, or VR), and for adding graphical imagery to the real
world, (augmented reality, or AR). In Q3 2021, the Open Web Docs
Steering Committee voted this topic as
impactful for the web community and
documentation work for features from 10 WebXR specifications got worked

As part of this effort:

Current projects

OWD staff are currently working on the following projects, all of which
we expect to finish in the first or second quarter of 2022:

ARIA documentation

Writing complete documentation for ARIA roles and attributes.

ARIA is an important part of Web accessibility, and MDN's ARIA reference
documentation is currently patchy and very out of date. This project will
add any missing pages and update the existing ones.

Updating DOM guides and reference

The DOM is a fundamental part of the web that all developer have to understand.
MDN's DOM reference documentation is badly out of date and in many cases not

This project will assess which updates are needed and make them.

Modernizing the JavaScript Learning Area

The Learning Area on MDN is
the place we expect new developers to start to learn web development. The
JavaScript section has not been systematically updated since it was created in
around 2016, and in many cases does not recommend modern development practices.

This project will assess the updates needed across the JavaScript Learning Area,
and apply them.

Documenting events and representing them in BCD

Events again are one of the fundamental aspects of web development, and the
way MDN documents events is confusing. One of the main problems is that
currently each event tends to be documented across two different pages:

This is confusing and doesn't properly reflect the fact that as a concept
there is only a single event, with different ways to attach a listener.

In this project we will describe the proper structure and content of an
MDN event reference page, and update all our event documentation
accordingly. This will entail writing or rewriting several hundred pages.

Financial report

In 2021, Open Web Docs was financially backed by
organizations and individuals with the goal to pay a competitive salary
to four Technical Writers. Substantial contributions from organizations

Share of financial contributions from organizational backers

Open Web Docs is grateful and appreciates the
generosity of the following people who substantially contributed

In total, 130 individuals and 10 organizations contributed

We work with a partner, Velocity Global, to process locally
compliant payroll. More detail on Open Web Docs’ finances may be found
on our Open Collective

Appendix on mdn/content metrics

This appendix describes how we calculated the metrics for OWD
contributions to the
mdn/content repository.
It’s included here in the interest of transparency and as an invitation
to check the data.

We showed two metrics:

The data to back up the metrics is in the

Number of commits

To get these numbers we just looked at the mdn/content
contributors page, filtered by months, for each month from February to
December 2021:

For each month, we noted the number of commits by every
contributor who made more than 10 commits. Then we grouped contributors

The process of excluding people who contributed 10
commits or fewer tends to disadvantage occasional volunteers.

Number of pull request reviews

To get these numbers we made a list of active reviewers
on MDN:

For each reviewer we fetched their activity page,
filtered by each month, February to December. For example:

We then noted the number of reviews on the mdn/content
repository from that reviewer for that month. Then, as before, we
grouped contributors into:

[1] Note that
MDN’s policy is to squash commits, so usually
1 commit === 1 PR