The final stage in the life cycle of networks...

...is the embedded phase, where one standard is so widely accepted that it becomes embedded in the fabric of the technology and is thereafter nearly impossible to dislodge--at least as long as the network exists. Regular 110-volt AC power is well embedded at this point (although, as the power grid becomes global, there could be some surprises). ASCII text is likewise deeply embedded--at least for phonetic languages. Some of the conventions of voice dial tone are so ubiquitous worldwide as to be permanent.

In any phase of innovation--prestandard, fluid, or embedded--standards are valuable because they hasten innovation. Agreements are constraints on uncertainty. The constraints of a standard solidify one pathway out of many, allowing further innovation and evolution to accelerate along that stable route. So central is the need to cultivate certainty that organizations must make the common standard their first allegiance. As standards are established, growth takes off.



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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK