Notes on Standards

A standard is a model or specification that something can be designed to conform to or against which it can be tested. For example the National Institute of Standards and Technology keeps the U.S. standards for length, weight, and volume (feet, pounds, gallons). The observatory at Greenwich England keeps the world standard for measuring time.

Proprietary standards belong to private companies or other organizartions. Open standards are available to everyone (open standards may be proprietary, as with Sun's java standard). Most industry standards are voluntary. That means companies follow them for such reasons as the manufacturers of toasters suspect that their customers would like to be able to plug them into a commonly available type of electrical outlet. Other standards, especially those affecting public and employee health and safety are required by governments and regulated by various local and national government agencies. The Linux Foundation has been set up to push for standards in the Linux market. The group aims to establish core functionality within the operating system so that applications will run on any version of the platform, and to ensure that the software supports several international languages.

Abuses of standards occur when they are used to control market share in violation of legal business practices, keep customers captive through vendor lockin contracts, or are kept secret to avoid criticism (such as that of U. S. voting machine insecurities). When a company with a monopoly share of a market abuses standards it is it may be subject to antitrust litigation (as was an issue in the U.S. vs. Microsoft case).

Standards for the internet are set by:
The Internet Engineering Task Force
World Wide Web Consortium
International Standards Organization
National Institute of Standards and Technology
American National Standards Institute


perrolle@ccs.neu.edu