more thoughts on standardization

Continuing my thoughts from last month on the Unified Mobile Platform.
I’ve been thinking about standards and standardization, theory vs practice, and relevance.
Ok, first off, let’s think what would happen if we took the premise of the Unified Mobile Platform (if you want to know what a world of ‘unification’ looks like, check out that beautiful site) and moved it to another industry, say – automobiles.
Suppose all the car makers in the United States banded together ‘for the common good’ in order to create a standard car-type and engine-type. An ‘open ecosystem’ in which all car makers could create cars that whose parts would be compatible with all the other car makers’ parts.
Yeah. It sounds great but it’s bullshit.
It’s bullshit not only because it would never work, but it’s also extremely boring and flies in the face of how innovation, art and expression happen.
Sure, a world full of ‘Ferrari-types’ sounds great, right? Everyone is driving different ‘flavors’ of Ferarris. That’s the ideal scenario, but if this were to really become a reality, and if we know anything about US car makers, we’d most likely be stuck with a country full of Ford Escorts.
Do I really have to say this? Variety is the spice of life. (UGH)
The truth is, even if we lived in a world of Ferraris some people would still be unsatisfied. That’s why we have Lamborghinis and Audis and Porsches and Bugattis and Toyotas and Volkswagens and Jeeps and Chevys and Fords and the dozens of other makes.
Even when we do have alliances and open standards, things don’t always hold together like people envision. Case in point – WebKit. WebKit is the ‘engine’ that power MobileSafari on the iPhone as well as the browsers for Google’s Android OS and Palm’s WebOS.
Actually, here’s a list of browsers that use WebKit. If you notice from that link, the only browser that passes the Acid3 test 100 percent is MobileSafari. So even when you have adoption of open standards, things still diverge and become customized. That’s how humans work. Think about our workspaces. We surround ourselves with plants and lights and figures and pictures and books. At least those of use who are creative do that.
Depending on your point of view, open systems can fall victim to fragmentation, as some say is the case with Google Android
Open systems can mutate and evolve into different ‘flavors‘, as is the case with the open source operating system, Linux.
The only way to ensure a system neither fragments nor mutates is to have it controlled by one company. Case in point: Apple’s iPhone OS as well as their proprietary DRM technology formerly used on music and currently still in use on their video content. Like it or hate it, Apple has succeeded in creating a completely consistent and stable operating system with iPhone OS because they control (and don’t license) the technology as well as the hardware.
What we’re seeing with the Unified Mobile Platform isn’t a initiative done out of good will and progress, but one done out of fear.