RE: Web Technologies in a Tailspin

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From: Mark Day (
Date: Fri Aug 11 2000 - 21:34:23 PDT

> > It looks like we're going to have to resign ourselves to a future where
> > software is only 90% interoperable, if we're going to get a world where
> > everyone is publishing XML documents.
> The problem is obviously that we have to uncouple ourselves from the
> market (which driving standard balkanization by attempting to lock
> user base), while still maintaining noninfinitesimal user and
> developer base.

Sounds great. Drop me a line when you figure out how to do it. ;-)

> One of the reasons why digital libraries and scientific e-publishing
> has so far failed is the need for continuous migration. Not only
> ephemeral hardware, which is bad enough, but also the continuous
> mutation of "standards". It would be possible to adapt to standards
> which have a half life of 10-15 years range, and are so well designed
> that you can migrate semiautomatically, with minimal losses.
> This is clearly not what the public wants, or thinks what it not
> wants.

This doesn't actually line up with what I was seeing earlier in this thread.
Previously, various complaints were of the form that standard X wasn't
properly implemented in enough different places.

But of course, that's because there aren't enough people who believe that X
adds enough value that they go and demand X from their vendor. And there
aren't any vendors who believe that they can use X as a competitive
differentiator. [Actually, for some values of X, there probably aren't many
people outside FoRK who even know that X exists.]

So I'd claim "the public" or "the market" does just fine at stopping
standards churn at approximately the point where there's little value being
added for the additional complexity. We might argue about whether it's
stopping at the right point. Over time, one gets used to the fact that it
almost always stops with something uglier/sleazier/cheaper/nastier than
available alternatives, and I try not to spend too much time thinking about
what that probably implies about people. But I don't think it makes sense to
act as though the public doesn't get at least an approximation of what it
collectively wants.


Mark Stuart Day
Senior Scientist
Cisco Systems
+1 (781) 663-8310

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