A Celebration of World Standards Day


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.


Comments (2)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Because Microsoft is committed to increasing interoperability — ensuring our products work well with others’ — we’re committed to helping develop standards.    Here I wonder how "Interoperability" is precisely defined by your company (Sorry, I am German, and we tend to attribute too much attention to terminology and definitions)? Is it really the very same term as in previous communications "interconnectivity" or "compatibility"? Are internal terminology and public affairs terminology syncronised?    At least there is no universal consensus about what is interoperability. You could follow the "standardised" ISO/IEC 2382-01 technical terminology proposal, very narrow:    "The capability to communicate, execute programs, or transfer data among various functional units in a manner that requires the user to have little or no knowledge of the unique characteristics of those units'."    Or a broader legal one as e.g. from the EU ISA programme. There the Council and Parliament laid down:    ""interoperability" means the ability of disparate and diverse organisations to interact towards mutually beneficial and agreed common goals, involving the sharing of information and knowledge between the organisations, through the business processes they support, by means of the exchange of data between their respective ICT systems;"

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your comment.  You are right that there is no universal consensus about the definition of interoperability. There are different meanings in different settings, and we respect those definitions in those domains. Ultimately though, we are committed to interoperability that’s needed to make our customers’ diverse systems work together the way they need them to. That requires interconnectivity to allow the information to pass, and compatibility so the systems work predictably. It may also mean the use of standards and testing under required scenarios. The word that comes to my mind when you think about how we define this area is “pragmatic.”  And, we’re working closely with others in the IT industry and making great progress on the technical and semantic areas of interoperability.  – Bill Harmon, Microsoft

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