I wrote this letter in response to an article I had read in in some computer magazine decrying the failure of some standard which had been championed by the author. I actually don't recall which magazine or which standard. I don't think it was ever published. As you can see, I have been quite interested in successful standards design for quite some time.
Why Standards Fail
An Open Letter to OAG and Other Standards Committees.
By Grant Robertson
(written sometime between 1993 and 1996)
Why is it that, often, even good standards fail while, at the same time, obviously inferior ones thrive. Perhaps it is because those creating the standards forget three very important factors for success in the world today: Marketing, marketing, and, of course, marketing. What many don't realize is that a standard is a product that must be sold like anything else. It must be sold to the vendors who will implement it and it must be sold to the customers who will pay for it. What good does it do to make the worlds biggest mouse trap if there are no mice that big? And how do you expect to sell the world’s best snargthik traps if no one would know what a snargthik was even if they saw one.
It is the same with standards. You could create a huge, voluminous standard. But if it has to be implemented on an all or nothing basis then most vendors won’t touch it, or will only implement random parts of it, and most customers wouldn’t want to pay for it if they did. Why spend a fortune on software that adheres to some new standard if it’s going to fall flat because no other vendors adopted it? And why pay any money at all for software that does something no one has heard of or thinks they’ll ever need just because it does so in a standardized way.