FEED THE WEB FIRST

For maximum prosperity…

…feed the web first.

Arriving at standards is often easier said than done. Standard-making is a torturous, bickering process every time. And the end result is universally condemned–since it is the child of compromise. But for a standard to be effective, its adoption must be voluntary. There must be room to dissent by pursuing alternative standards at any time.

Standards play an increasingly vital role in the new economy. In the industrial age, relatively few products demanded standards. You didn’t need a consensual network to make a chair and table. If you obeyed some basic ergonomic conventions–make table height 30 inches–you were on your way. Those industrial products that operated in networks–such as the electrical or transportation networks–demanded sophisticated standard-making. Anything plugged into the electrical grid had to be standard. Automobiles manufactured by separate factories shared standards on such things as axle width, fuel mixtures, placement of turn signals, not to mention the many standards of road construction and signage.

All information and communication products and services demand extensive consensus. Participants at both ends of any conversation have to understand each other’s language. Multiply one conversation by a billion, factor in a thousand different media choices, and then start to count three-way, four-way, n-way conversations, and the amount of consensus-setting skyrockets.

 

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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