Friday, April 3, 2009

"Industry standard" baggage

Headaches of the modern Internet technology include outdated non-standard "industry standards". Those are extra features, or additional functionality, which was at some time popular, but then went out of favor and never made it to a formal standard specification. Obvious examples are miscellaneous Internet Explorer 6 behaviors. Once popular and almost the only way to do cool stuff on the Internet, now it is an annoying and expensive piece of software, yet hard to replace and impossible to ignore.

Situations like that create some sort of societal cognitive dissonance. Some people fully understand that the technology is outdated and can be replaced with new, better standard-compliant options, which are more effective in a long run. The long-run effectiveness is hard to justify and, as any future prediction, faces scrutiny from business side of organization, which is against spending money on a technology update with an uncertain benefit, of may potentially phase itself out with new hardware or environment alike.

That is the situation, when both sides benefited from the initial popularity if the non-standard "industry standard". Yet only one side - the user organizations, and completely innocent third party developers are left in the dust or eat the transition cost. Which leads me to a question: Should a vendor have a societal responsibility to aid the transition in some way? What might it look like? Some companies provide conversion scripts to aid code transition. Should it be at least expected to have transition guides downloadable? You know, in IE6 case, those guides which would not only include transition of documented IE 6 behaviors, but also the undocumented ones, which are widely used because they were the only way to get things done? How about pushing businesses to understand the outdated technolody limitations? What else may be relevant?

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