Re: Working Within the System

From: Adrian Tymes (
Date: Sat Apr 29 2000 - 21:23:25 MDT

Billy Brown wrote:
> Martin Ling wrote:
> > However, there are very competent bodies who set out open industry
> > standards for software, hardware and the Internet.
> Open standards are primarily a marketing tool used by companies that have
> tiny market shares to persuade people to buy their products. Sometimes such
> a "standard" will actually become so commonly used as to become the normal
> way of doing things (i.e. HTML), but it is just as common for a completely
> proprietary standard produced by a big company to end up in that role (i.e.
> ODBC).
> Just because a bunch of companies get together and issue a 'standard' does
> not mean that their work should have any special protections, or that
> everyone should immediately adopt it.

HTML was not made by a company. It was first written by a scientist
looking for a better way to share information, and freely given away.
There was no commercial incentive - at least, not until Netscape came
along. A number of other widely-supported computer standards - HTTP and
Linux, to name a couple of the more popular ones - similarly had no
corporate backing before they became popular enough for companies to
take notice.

> Portability standards, like Java, HTML or POSIX, are essentially marketing
> efforts launched by coalitions of companies who do not have enough market
> share to be viable competitors by themselves.

> Interoperability standards, like TCP and HTTP, are another matter. Because
> their purpose is to allow products from different vendors to work together,
> it is usually in everyone's best interests to fully codify and support them.

I submit the up-and-coming Wireless Application Protocol as a
counterexample. It's an interoperability standard that, at its start,
was launched by Unwired Planet (now and whoever it could beg
into supporting. WAP is sufficiently unstable that, aside from, practically everyone who officially supports WAP also
supports WAP's competitors - for instance, UDP/IP.

> No one is *entrusted* with anything in a free market. Commercial entities
> can only control a vital technology if they are actually doing a decent job
> of managing it, because the moment they begin making mistakes they create an
> opportunity for rivals to make big money by fixing things.

So long as the screw-ups haven't placed so many barriers to leaving -
for instance, holding the domain name they bought for you even after you
send notice to NSI that the ISP no longer has your business and thus no
longer has a right to your trademark, or just plain buying up the ISP
you were going to switch to - that switching becomes financially

> > (such as because Microsoft's are buggy and insecure).
> Ten years ago this remark would have been on target. Five years ago the
> matter would have been arguable. Today it is simply ignorant prejudice.
> Microsoft's current performance in both these areas is in the top 25% of the
> industry, and still improving at a steady rate. They aren't the best in the
> world, but they are much better than average, and unless the Unix vendors
> get their collective act together they *will* be the best in another five
> years or so. virtue of having bought up or run out of business all competition
that did have their act together.

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