Posted by Bill Harmon
Global Standards Lead, Microsoft Legal and Corporate Affairs
October 14 is World Standards Day, which has been observed for more than 40 years to highlight the economic importance of global standards and to honor the thousands of volunteers around the world who participate in standardization activities. It’s a day well worth celebrating.
When you bank at an ATM or log onto a Wi-Fi network at your favorite coffee shop, you don’t think about the effort that went into creating the standards that make all this convenience possible. Often, it’s the result of extensive and complex discussions.
Wi-Fi is a great example. In the early days of wireless computing, competing technologies caused confusion, created security issues, and hindered adoption. Responding to consumer demand, more than 130 companies collaborated in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers industry standards group on the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard, now available to all manufacturers.
Successful industry standards derive from many sources. Some are specifications developed through national and international bodies. Others emerge from less formal consortia and forums that document technology solutions to interoperability challenges. Microsoft participates in standards processes that are voluntary, consensus-based and open to different stakeholders, including industry, users, governments, and non-governmental organizations.
And the discussions don’t end once a standard is established. The parties involved often share information on how they are implementing standards in their products, in order to foster greater interoperability.
To prevent standards from limiting innovation, the standards community avoids picking winners too early. Sometimes multiple standards will co-exist with overlapping functionality. Sometimes innovation is best fostered through foundational standards (XML, SOAP and REST for Web services, for example) that allow greater flexibility.
Because Microsoft is committed to increasing interoperability — ensuring our products work well with others’ — we’re committed to helping develop standards. We’ve been building a team of standards experts across our company and across the globe. We’re proud to be part of a vibrant industry community, contributing to and collaborating with more than 150 national and international standards organizations.
In honor of World Standards Day, members of our standards team will have a series of posts here over the next few weeks, discussing standards efforts taking place across the company in key areas, from accessibility to environmental sustainability. Check back regularly for the ongoing discussion. You can also read more about the standardization process and Microsoft’s participation in the standards community in this new whitepaper.