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Standards 101

Standards 101

IS 373—Web Standards

Todd Will

The tower of babel story
The Tower of Babel Story

1At one time the whole world spoke a single language and used the same words. 2As the people migrated eastward, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. 3They began to talk about construction projects. "Come," they said, "let's make great piles of burnt brick and collect tar to use as mortar. 4Let's build a great city with a tower that reaches to the skies--a monument to our greatness! This will bring us together and keep us from scattering all over the world."   

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

The tower of babel story1
The Tower of Babel Story

5But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6"Look!" he said. "If they can accomplish this when they have just begun to take advantage of their common language, just think of what they will do later. Nothing will be impossible for them! 7Come, let's go down and give them different languages. Then they won't be able to understand each other."

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

The tower of babel story2
The Tower of Babel Story

8In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the earth; and that ended the building of the city. 9That is why the city was called Babel, because it was there that the Lord confused the people by giving them many languages, thus scattering them across the earth.

From Genesis 11:1~9, New Living Translation

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Basic questions
Basic Questions

  • What is a standard?

  • What is a web standard?

  • How, and by whom, are standards developed?

  • What is the practical importance of understanding web standards?

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

How do you choose
How Do You Choose?

  • Stability/Longevity

  • Ownership: Open vs. Proprietary

  • Business Requirements

  • Interoperability

  • Support/Community

  • Maintainability

  • Skill set/Ease of Implementation

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

The lessons of babel
The Lessons of Babel

  • Standards Enable Progress

  • With a common language and determination, anything is possible

  • Without a common language, you might as well go home

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

The goals of this course
The Goals of This Course

  • Get experience solving real problems with standards

  • Build things that are useful to people

  • Develop skills that you can list on your resume

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

What are standards
What are Standards

“…written specifications of methods, processes, technical requirements, or other guidelines agreed upon by some segment of the user community.”

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Examples of standards
Examples of Standards

  • English

  • The Metric System

  • Microsoft Windows

  • SMTP, HTML, HTTP, etc.

  • Javascript

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

The web is built upon standards
The Web is Built Upon Standards

  • Protocols: HTTP, FTP, SMTP, TCP/IP, etc.

  • Data Structures: XML, HTML

  • Servers: Apache, IIS

  • Languages: JavaScript, PHP, Perl, etc.

  • Browsers: IE, Firefox/Mozilla, Netscape, Safari, Lynx, Opera

  • Accessibility: WCAG, WAI

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Important points
Important Points

  • “…written…”  Needs to be recorded

  • “…methods…” Focus is solving problems

  • “…segment of the user community.” Not everyone has to use it

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

A standard is born
A Standard is Born

  • A problem arises

  • Multiple solutions are proposed and/or implemented

  • Natural forces narrow the field

    • Darwinistic—survival of the fittest; evolution

    • Market—the “fittest” can be “betamaxed”

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Types of standards
Types of Standards

  • Within the IT domain:

    • de factoe.g. Microsoft Windows

    • Standards Development Organizations (SDOs), e.g. ISO

    • Consortia, e.g. W3C, WECA

    • Volunteer/Ad Hoc, e.g. IETF, some open source projects

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Comparison of standards
Comparison of Standards

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

When do features matter
When do features matter?

  • Decisions:

    • Which standard to choose for a new project?

    • Should we develop our own, deviate from, or modify the existing standard?

  • Infrastructure decisions last a long time

    • e.g. mainframes, cobol

  • If you make a bad decision you may be stuck with it for a long time or have to spend $$$ to switch

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

When don t features matter
When don’t features matter?

  • When the system is independent, i.e. no other systems depend on it

  • When the project is small enough to be redone at little cost

  • When standards are interoperable

  • When a high degree of technical expertise or training is not a factor

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

De facto standards
de facto Standards

  • The term de facto is generally used to refer to rules or customs that are followed only because there is not really a viable alternative and/or an explicit rule or custom has never been established

  • A de facto standard, then is one that is followed even though there may never have been a formalized process for creating or implementing it

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Source of de facto standards
Source of de facto Standards

  • Can come from anywhere, but in practice tend to be developed by individuals, or individual companies

  • Classic example: Windows OS

  • Typically come to prominence through the free market

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

How can you tell
How can you tell?

  • Your teacher says:“Please email me your essay.”

  • Given no other info, you assume:

    • MS Word format, or

    • PDF

  • Why? Because MS Word is the de facto standard word processor on the market

  • All competing products, e.g. OpenOffice, must be compatible with the standard to survive

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Features of de facto standards
Features of de facto Standards

  • Hard to create one intentionally

  • Expensive, since one company must pay the entire development cost

  • Faster

  • May lead to monopolies, or attempts by owner to “lock in” users

  • No pretense of openness, participation, or democratic process

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Sdo standards
SDO Standards

  • Standards Development Organizations

  • Examples:

    • International Standards Organization (ISO)

    • American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

  • Don’t directly create standards, but oversee their development

  • Impose an open, transparent, broadly participative process

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Why process matters
Why Process Matters

  • Standards affect everyone

  • Example: EU debate over standard language  English

  • Huge implications for education and business

  • Without democratic process, the poor and underrepresented may suffer

  • BUT…process takes time

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

The story of tcp ip and osi
The Story of TCP/IP and OSI

  • The problem: need a way to network computers

  • The strategy: a formalized process

  • The result: by the time OSI is complete, TCP/IP is already in wide use and has become the standard

  • The market couldn’t wait for the “official” solution

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Features of sdo standards
Features of SDO Standards

  • Highly legitimate

  • Expensive because of international coordination and travel

  • Slower

  • Open to all stakeholder groups, (and even groups that are not stakeholders)

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Consortium standards
Consortium Standards

  • The compromise between SDOs and individual companies

  • Most web standards created this way

  • Groups of companies join a consortium and send representatives to work together on a common standard

  • Consortium members “own” it

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Features of consortia
Features of Consortia

  • Members pay dues

  • Participation is not usually open

  • The process is determined on a case-by-case basis by the charter of the consortium

  • Faster

  • Examples:

    • WECA: Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance

    • W3C: World Wide Web Consortium

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Volunteer standards
Volunteer Standards

  • May have formal organization or may be ad hoc

  • Cheapest

  • Faster

  • Best example:Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

  • No kings, no presidents, no voting. We believe in rough consensus, running code, and dual competing implementations.

  • May be difficult to create intentionally

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Internet engineering task force
Internet Engineering Task Force

  • Open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet (anyone can join, even YOU!)

  • Develop security, routing, transport, display protocols to be used in designing web sites

  • Most of the work is done through mailing lists

  • Completely volunteer

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Important observations
Important Observations

  • Who is actually writing the standards?

    • Ironically, regardless of the organization overseeing the process, it tends to be the exact same people

  • What are the impacts on business?

    • Standards mitigate market share

    • Standards have strategic uses

  • How are they adopted?

    • Regardless of creator, there is no guarantee that any specification will become a standard

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101


  • Standards are written specifications designed to solve practical problems in a way that allows people to work together as efficiently as possible

  • They are developed in various ways that can have great impacts on such variables as speed, cost, legitimacy, and levels of acceptance.

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

For next time
For Next Time

  • Choosing standards

  • Developing standards

  • Types of consortia

  • How you can get involved

  • Topic for final paper due

  • Read Zeldman chapters 3-4

  • Read web of system performance article

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101

Class assignment
Class Assignment

  • Split into groups of 2

  • Select something that you feel should be standardized

    • If you can’t come up with anything, then select something that has already been standardized

  • Answer the following:

    • Why should it be standardized?

    • How would you develop the standard (slide 15)

    • What features would it have?

    • What types of devices would use that standard?

  • Brief presentation at end of class

CIS 373---Web Standards—Standards 101