donderdag, november 01, 2007

Standards as corporate weapons

In today's technological world, standards are very important to guarantee interoperability between different systems. Standards like HTML and HTTP made sure that the web was able to become as popular as it is today.

The organizations that create standards (W3C, IETF, OASIS, ISO and others) are equally important because they drive the whole process. It is important to know that most members of these standards organizations are companies with certain commercial interests. Sometimes the agenda of these companies is not as noble as "How do we create the best standard possible?" but rather "How can we screw our competition?".

Microsoft is trying really hard to prevent ODF from dethroning DOC (which is a de facto standard) as file format of choice for wordprocessing and spreadsheet applications. Recently Microsoft has tried to influence the ISO voting process to get its OOXML file format approved as an ISO standard to counter the ISO approval of ODF. It turns out that their manipulation of ISO's processes is actually preventing ISO from functioning correctly in many other domains.

It looks like Microsoft is once more playing some dirty tricks. This time it is trying to prevent ECMAScript (aka JavaScript) from evolving and competing with its own proprietary solutions. Brendan Eich (original creator of JavaScript) has written an enlightening blog post with some details about Microsoft's practises:
Once Microsoft dominated the market, the last edition of the standard was left to rot -- ES3 was finished in 1999 -- and even easy-to-fix standards conformance bugs in IE JScript went unfixed for eight years (so three years to go from Edition 1 to 3, then over eight to approach Edition 4). Now that the proposed 4th edition looks like a competitive threat, the world suddenly hears in detail about all those bugs, spun as differences afflicting "JavaScript" that should inform a new standard.
There are plenty of alternative software packages to replace Microsoft's products. Maybe it is time for you, yes YOU, to stop supporting a convicted monopolist and abuser of standards organizations.

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