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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:
- ignore existing or imminent standards
- 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.
- 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.
Virtual Environments Visualisation