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[xml-dev] standards vs. the public

The proposed patent policy demands discussion of the
basis on which the policy is being proposed and
defended.  How is the public interest served (or, as
the case may be, not served) by this policy?

  "The only reason you should work on information
  interchange standards is because you don't already
  control the market."

I think this rather crass statement is appropriate,
given the current situation.  It grieves me.  I wish it
were not so.

It would be much better for everyone, including the
standards-makers, if they would all use their
considerable skills to serve the public.  A "standard"
should be carefully designed to enjoy the wholehearted
support of an enlightened public.

The public is everyone who owns information.  It's a
big responsibility to serve the public interest.  It is
a tragic feature of our times that few IT standards
efforts ever even give lip-service to this
responsibility, much less act with good faith toward
the public.

In view of the welter of mutually conflicting
("non-orthogonal") standards emanating from the W3C,
the public's interests would be better served if we all
meekly adopted whatever "standards" are offered by some
particular appointed commercial monopolist.  At least
then it would be clear how we should invest our time
and effort as we attempt to resolve our urgent
information interchange and management problems.  And
there would be someone whom we could hold responsible
whenever things don't work.  Broken things would
probably be fixed promptly and predictably, in order to
avoid a public investigation -- perhaps by the media,
perhaps by some government or government agency -- that
would make the monopolist very uncomfortable.

But it would be far better to make the public interest
the real focus of our standardization activities.
Decisions about standards processes, and about
standards themselves, should be explained to the public
in terms of public benefit, showing why all the
possible alternatives would be less beneficial *to the

If we don't choose the public-service-centric approach,
then we will surely get the monopolist-centric approach
by default.  The absence of effective
public-service-centric leadership in the Web arena is
creating public demand for the predictability of
tyranny.  Under the rule of a tyrant, at least the
"standards" will work together.  The laissez-faire "let
a hundred standards bloom" attitude will never produce
a rationally integrated environment for universal
information management and exploitation.

I would like someone to show how the proposed patent
policy fits into an integrated package of policy
reforms that will make the W3C a credible and
consistent source of standards that the public can
adopt with a sense of security that they will all make
sense with respect to each other.


Steven R. Newcomb, Consultant

voice: +1 972 359 8160
fax:   +1 972 359 0270

1527 Northaven Drive
Allen, Texas 75002-1648 USA

The views expressed above are precisely the same as
those of my unfortunate employer, who accepts full
responsibility for them.