Sean McGrath writes,Standards are things that help us get
complex IT systems to 'just work' - to inter-operate. We want to take X and put it into/onto/under Y and for the whole X/Y thing to 'just work'. The idea is as applicable to hardware as it is to software.In the software world, there are two main approaches to getting the simple idea of things that 'just work' together to, well, just work. The first is to build applications from the same base application code. Microsoft Office and Open Office are both common examples of this. If base software is same, there's a better chance of plugging our stuff together than if they are not..
The other approach is to build everything from the same base data/protocol. HTML, HTTP, CSV, MP3 are examples of this. If software can understand the base data/protocol, there's a better chance of plugging all stuff together than if we did not share a common base data/protocol.As applications can be proprietary and applications can be non-proprietary,they can be used as the basis for interoperability. Although it is often faster to get interoperability off the ground by using the same application base, you can end up tied in to that application base. It is possible because any non-trivial real-world application is a tight embrace between business logic and data. Separating one from the other is not always possible without losing important information.This difficulty is felt in making HTML compatible to various browsers. So too when one tries to save a spreadsheet as CSV. True interoperability results from the subtle and complex interplay between application code and application data.Interoperability is a gray scale. On one end there is the white light of simplicity that results from everyone having the exact same applications as everyone else. On the other end is the pitch black of rampant incompatibilities between applications. The gray areas in between are where most of the world's data and applications live. There is no clear divide between the proprietary ones and the non-proprietary ones on that gray scale. No black and white distinctions that can be made.