Types of Standards: Proprietary Versus Open
Let's analyze two basic types of standards:
Proprietary (de facto) standards evolve from a product line or specific vendor examples such as the IBM PC, UNIX, or Microsoft's Windows. Such standards develop when there is widespread acceptance by a broad base of customers or users. The standard, based on a dominant technology produced by a single company, is designated as proprietary or exclusive. The dangers should be apparent, as a single supplier or vendor has total control over the functionality and usefulness of the product.
Open (de jure) standards are developed and adopted by some authorized standardization body, such as by treaty among national governments, or voluntary non-treaty organizations. General examples include the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). De jure standards develop in the absence of underlying technology, dominant or proprietary, needed for implementation. Extensible Markup Language (SML), a specification developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), is another example of an open standard.
Open standard technologies, including UNIX and other technologies, provide choice for users. Developers can choose the fastest and most capable hardware systems to execute their applications and services. Users can start on small, relatively inexpensive workstations such as Linux boxes running Java, for instance, and then scale up to larger servers from IBM, Sun, HP, or other vendors as required. Businesses can choose the most cost-effective hardware, software, and service vendors to meet their needs. The entire industry of UNIX vendors, Java-based middle tier, application server companies, and database providers is at their disposal.
Put simply, open standards give users extreme agility and flexibility as they develop solutions and grow their businesses.