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   To be a standard or not to be a standard

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In a message dated 15/11/2002 15:05:23 GMT Standard Time, rpjday@mindspring.com writes:

On Fri, 15 Nov 2002, Bullard, Claude L (Len) wrote:

> Actually she has a point.

um ... not really.

> There are many business evaluations of so-called
> standards that get resolved by saying "Well, Microsoft
> has implemented it."

microsoft software is not a standard, simply because it
can *never* be a standard, barring some sort of official
international standard organization making it so.

the fact that my wall outlet provides 110V at 60Hz.
that's a standard.  that my bicycle wheels are 700mm.
*that's* a standard.  paper (at least here in north
america) typically coming in 8.5" x 11" or 8.5" x 14".
*that's* a standard.  get the idea?

MS software may be popular.  it may be ubiquitous.
and many corporations have clearly adopted it as their
SW of choice.  that does *not* make it a standard.



Words can be treacherous things. The word "standard" is open to many interpretations.

Technically (or "pedantically" if you prefer) it is only bodies like the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) that can issue "Standards".

W3C issues "Recommendations" because it does not technically/pedantically have the authority to issue "Standards".

The reason that many W3C "standards" get adopted is because industry leaders (sometimes including Microsoft, sometimes not) are involved in creating these "standards". So, many of them have street credibility and so get acceptance.

These issues of "standards" in technology are (in many cases) not issues of religion or some moral absolute. The "standard" is often no more than a pragmatic way to solve a shared practical problem.

What is or is not a standard may, of course, have commercial or political implications. Currently W3C XML Schema is a de facto "standard" (of sorts). Quite possibly in a year or two RELAX NG and Schematron will genuinely be international Standards, if they are approved at ISO.

As far as Microsoft "standards" are concerned, they sometimes win they sometimes lose. Microsoft produced the WD-xsl flavour of "XSL/XSLT". On the street it wasn't accepted and Microsoft later adopted W3C XSLT.

Len's point was a fairly simple one, I think. A business decides what is a sensible solution to standardise on based on various considerations. Sometimes it will standardise on Microsoft technology, sometimes W3C technology, sometimes ISO technology. It's a business decision, not typically a religious or moral one.

Andrew Watt


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