It’s hard to consider an argument against standards with a straight face. A basic tenet of the modern age has been to reduce variation to increase quality. This is a cornerstone of W Edwards Deming’s work. Without standards, the quality revolution that lifted Japan to an economic superpower would not have been possible.
Standards in technology are not new. You can get access to information on ANSI Standards dating back to 1978 at the Charles Babbage Institute. We use standards in nearly every aspect of computing, from the ASCII (1963) and Unicode (1991) character sets to the TCP/IP protocol (1973) to the USB bus (1996) on our systems. We use MPEG standards to store to share audio and video on our DVD drives. Even the electricity coming from the wall outlets is delivered according to a standard.
So the notion that simply creating a standard constrains creativity rings hollow to me.
He first spoke about open platforms being “built to enable, not to control.” He continued:
“So what else does it take to make an open Internet platform?
What does it take?
It takes, mainly, common standards. The innovation of the WWW was possible because the standards for TCP/IP were already implemented in an interoperable way all over the planet, in advance of the innovation. TCP/IP wasn’t designed with networked hypertext in mind. But it wasn’t designed to prohibit it either — it was and is an open platform.
Web 2.0 community Web sites, eBay, and Flickr are possible because the Web standards, in turn, were widely implemented in an interoperable way, before those innovations. The same for the wikis, like Wikipedia, and blogs, and so on. The Web is a huge platform for innovation because of those standards. Any new genre of communication, any new social networking idea, immediately can gain the value of unexpected re-use by people across the world.
There is a very important difference in attitude between a foundation technology and — well — let’s call it a ceiling technology. A foundation technology is designed to enable innovation, to be the base which will support other even more powerful things to come. A ceiling technology is not. It is designed to provide a value, and for its provider to cash in and cash out. Proprietary music download systems are ceiling technologies to the extent that the technologists design to be also being the only store in town, rather than creating an open market. Though putting a lid on further innovation, they are still providing a service, and making sure they profit from it.
Ceiling technologies are the end of the road for innovation.
When you want to make a foundation technology, you need to look ahead. You need to put aside the short term return on investment questions and look at the long term.”
I am not going to pretend that I am of the same stature as Sir Tim Berners-Lee. I stand in his shadow.
But with respect to his sentiment, I agree. He is correct. It is the creation of a foundational standard that empowers and builds innovation. Business software lacks that foundational standard.
The obstacles that inhibit rapid innovation in business software, of the same scale and scope as the web itself… these obstacles are artificial. One-off integration mechanisms and transaction-only integration standards are obstacles. They are ceiling technologies, designed to prevent innovation and lock each customer into a single vendor.
That must end. The Software + Services trend requires it. It is time to end the necessity of “vendor-lock-in through unique integration” by standardizing not only “one potential interface” as the Open Applications Group has done with OAGIS, but to go the next step and create a uniform standard model that unifies the platform for business software.
In this new standard, each system is constrained in its scope, but not in its features or abilities. This creates the standard “plug” that allows a new system to be built and for it to plug in to an existing infrastructure.
This simple notion, to define the system boundaries along with the integration messages, allowing independent software vendors to create a single solution that will, through SIMPLE and INEXPENSIVE configuration, integrate WIDELY with HUNDREDS of other business software products, whether as an installed system or an Internet-available service.
Two SaaS providers can easily compete with Microsoft and Oracle and one another, and customers benefit from the inevitable competition on reliability, price, quality, and features.
I am a mere customer in this pawn-game. But as a customer, I call for the “big guys” to step up, sign up, and build for a future that will not only risk the precious “lock-in” model, but will, more importantly, secure the future for the companies that lead the way.