AGOCG logo
Graphics Multimedia VR Visualization Contents
Training Reports Workshops Briefings Index
This report is also available as an Acrobat file.
Back Next Contents
Authoring and Design for the WWW

Appendix One: a note on Standards

Without standards for the transfer of information from place to place, machine to machine, network to network, and from one software package to another, the World Wide Web would not work. This is not the case in most other areas of computing, where proprietary formats for information are the norm. For example, individual word-processing packages have emerged over the years which must now be provided with a suite of translation filters if they are to import and export foreign' formats.

There are three possible approaches for the developer of a new computing package or system:

  1. ignore existing or imminent standards
  2. design a unique product which it is hoped will dominate the market and set a new de facto standard

    Such standards may emerge when any company so dominates the field that others find themselves obliged to follow that company's lead. An example is Postscript, developed by Adobe as a means of sending graphic and typographic information between computers and in particular between computers and printing devices.

  3. design a product which conforms to some existing or emergent agreed standard.

A standards body may be established for some area of common interest between many companies and organisations. The World Wide Web consortium (see Resources) is concerned with developing standards for the Web which benefit users and not any particular manufacturer.

Approaches 2 and 3 are closely related in practice: major companies sit on standards bodies and influence policy, while the standards bodies themselves tend to work within the same broad parameters individual companies at any given time.

The trouble with standards

Standards are not always wholly beneficial. Since they must be fixed at a given time with a certain view of the technology, of its applications and of the needs of users, they can eventually become an impediment to progress. Two things can happen: a rival standard may overtake the original or a new version of the original standard may be agreed. Nowadays, standards are in a state of almost perpetual revision, so that even within a true agreed standard there will be problems with versions.

Some new aspects of Web 'standards' are dictated not by the Web standards body but by Netscape, up to now the biggest single commercial influence on the Web, and increasingly by Microsoft.

See the home pages of the various interested companies and also of the World Wide Web Consortium, under Web Resources.

Back Next Contents

Graphics     Multimedia      Virtual Environments      Visualisation      Contents