Can we standardize the standards, please?

My dreams are haunted by standards organizations (and spear-wielding iguanas in tutus but that’s a different post). Trying to figure out which standard meets which business case or what set of standards together can you claim in a new product – it’s like finding your way out of a never-ending maze. When you think you gotten to the end, a new standard emerges or one that you counted on before has changed. 

There’s a lot of issues with the standards:

Too many standards organizations

IETF, W3C, IANA, OASIS, NIST, ISO, ANSI, CEN, ETSI – just to name a few

Can anyone really become and expert of all of these? Will the American standard that fits my business case be ok in Europe where a European standard doesn’t exist? If there are two competing standard that both meet my business case, should I just strive to code against the simplest one?

Will 2 standards from IETF, 1 from OASIS, one from NIST, and 2 from W3C all play well together? 

Too slow to change

Most of the people contributing to and pushing along standards have other full-time jobs. For that reason scheduling, attendance, and accountability become an issue. This just slows the whole process down (no matter how efficient the process looks on paper). 

Too many stakeholders

It’s amazing how much a small differentiator for a business can turn into a lot of code and a couple new use cases for a standards organization. W3C has 318 members. Some are startups whose life are death may depend on the acceptances of a W3C standard. Some are huge organizations that want to keep an eye on other organizations or drive the standards to meet their business needs. With so many contributors, it’s amazing that agreement is reached. 


So – what do we do? We can’t scrap standards organizations as much as we like too. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to write this blog (thanks IANA for port registering, IETF for DNS and HTTP and W3C for HTML).  Here are a couple suggestions:


1. The Standards Consortium

This group will have representatives from each of the standards organizations. They will meet twice a year – not in California, but in a dark secret bunker in Colorado. They will talk only about merging and expiring standards. I know – that sounds like a blast (hence the bunker). Booze will be provided as needed.

2. Rinse and Repeat

Wipe the slate clean except for the standards we absolutely need. Those will get rolled of into a new standards organization (the only one). We’ll call that the Association for Standardized Standards (ASS). I guess the name can change if needed. 




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