Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Stagnant standards

One of the awkward things about technology is that we get the best use out of it when we have standards, such as common network protocols, but the most useful standards come out of ad-hoc solutions to emergent problems. So you need a way to send human-readable messages from one person to another, and we get email, but at first we get lots of different ways of sending email, which are incompatible with each other. Eventually we settle on one interoperable standard, and the world is good. Well, until Microsoft "embraces and extends" it, rendering themselves the keeper of the new ad-hoc standard. Ahem.

The other difficulty is that the standards we developed 10 years ago are now inextricably tied into absolutely everything, so even if they are no longer ideal or even vaguely appropriate, we have to keep using them because the status quo isn't going to stop or join you in a pre-emptive upgrade. HTTP 1.1 is probably the last version of that standard that will ever be produced, and the last of its kind as well. JavaScript may get some teeny-tiny upgrades, but it must maintain backwards compatibility with the websites of the 90s that it was designed to serve. Those had vastly different needs than today's interactive web applications.

So we get stuck in old standards, doing new things, and we will never be rid of them until the entire system collapses or someone tries something so fundamentally different that it demands a new ad-hoc solution.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's an odd pattern for advanced technology to take.
PPS - Or maybe it's a human pattern.

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