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Standards (yet again) was RE: Use of XML ?


> -----Original Message-----
> From: John Evdemon [
> Sent: Thursday, August 02, 2001 10:40 AM
> To: 'Edd Dumbill'; Ron Schmelzer
> Cc: Mike.Champion@softwareag-usa.com; xml-dev@lists.xml.org
> Subject: RE: Use of XML ?

> Good call.  This is pet peeve of mine - calling something a
> standard when it
> really isn't.  The "s" word gets tossed about much too
> casually these days.
> UDDI is best referred to as a project or an initiative (it is
> definitely not
> a consortium).  The UDDI api documentation is a specification, not a
> standard.

I'm of two minds on this ...

The "right thing" is probably to insist that "standards" come from recognized international standards bodies (there are only 4, right -- the ISO, ITU, CCITT, ? ... and the national standards organizations affiliated with them.  Everything else is just a commonly-supported / de-facto specification.  But almost no one seems to actually use this definition ... and it does exclude things that have some legitimate claim to be "standards", such as W3C Recommendations and IETF Internet Standards.  Also, it enshrines as "standards" such things that made it through the ISO process but don't have significant numbers of real-world implementations or cross-vendor support (FOSI and DSSSL come to mind).

The path of least resistance is to surrender, and go with journalist-speak and define "standard" as any specification that is either implemented by a dominant vendor (e.g., the Windows API) or agreed upon by any significant group of vendors (SOAP 1.1, the W3C specs). But then the word becomes meaningless, and the press releases from BozoCo and flunkies about the new "standard" they proposed to the W3C have the same status as ISO documents. 

Is there much point in trying to carve out a definition in the middle that would make W3C Recommendations "standards" but would exclude UDDI?  UDDI may well be half-baked, but (ahem) a casual study of the xml-dev archives would suggest that this characterization can be applied to a number of W3C Recommendations!

Maybe "standard" is too overloaded to be useful,and we need a new word that describes specifications that are a) thoroughly documented, b) arrived at through some sort of rigorous (and hopefully open) deliberative process; c) widely supported by interoperable implementations; and d) extensively field-tested and found understandable and useful in real-world settings.  (Hmm, what in the SGML/XML world meets these criteria? My list would be: SGML itself maybe, HTML (not sure which version), XML 1.0, XSLT, SAX 1.0, DOM Level 1, XPath, .... I'm thinking .... ???)