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The Standardization Part

You may have heard standards wonks talk about the difference between dejure and defacto standards. Dejure standards are typified by those developed or recognized by a governmentally chartered standards body, such as the International Organization for Standards or American National Standards Institute. Defacto standards are those that achieve their status through broad market acceptance instead of via legislation. Microsoft Word is an example of a pure marketplace standard.

In reality, no dejure standard is meaningful unless it's also widely adopted by the market. This is the real test of standardization, what everyone is really after, and it sometimes seems as if there are almost as many approaches to solving this problem as there are proposals for standards. In a nutshell, this is what the fight is all about.

The central and very perplexing question facing all businesses with an interest in capitalizing on the latest software craze around Web services is how to get them standardized—meaning widely adopted by the marketplace—in a direction beneficial to themselves and (hopefully) detrimental to their competition. And because Web services have as their primary benefits interoperability among diverse pieces of software, successful standardization is not optional.

Several influential vendors, notably Microsoft and IBM, have attempted to take matters into their own hands by collaborating on the development and publication of specifications. However, this approach may lack sufficient adoption by other vendors and users to reach critical mass.

Many industry organizations have taken positions on or adopted various Web services-related specifications, including the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C); the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS); the Object Management Group (OMG); the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF); and the Electronic Business XML (ebXML) initiative, sponsored in part by The United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT), UDDI.org, and now the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I).

An interesting and important side issue concerns what happens to UDDI. Despite the fact that WS-I includes UDDI, UDDI.org remains a vendor-controlled organization. UDDI.org has consistently stated that the UDDI project will be turned over to an independent standards body at an appropriate time, and that the future course of UDDI will be thereafter determined by that standards organization.

This intention has been a consistent part of the proposition that UDDI.org has offered its members and the industry at large: Whatever the privately controlled organization produces will be placed under independent control at some point. The original timeline for the handover was following the completion of UDDI V3. However, the group has badly missed the original December 2001 deadline for V3, and no announcement has been made about which independent organization is to assume control.

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