What happens when a standard dies?

  • 14-Jan-2011

The tech blogosphere has been debating the apparent demise of the Java Content Repository (JCR) spec, especially after news that the open source Document Management firm Nuxeo dropped support for the standard. JCR's popularity (something I wrote about on my personal blog) and future are always debatable, and a subject for another post.

However, it should focus you the customer on an important topic: what happens when a standard dies?

The case for employing standards (as opposed to proprietary approaches) is that standards allow you to:

  1. Easily integrate and interoperate with other enterprise applications
  2. Rationalize your skills, hardware, software, and resources
  3. Enable faster time to market because you can buy applications off-the-shelf
  4. Create portable applications
  5. Enjoy a more predictable and simpler development lifecyle
  6. Focus on your business, rather than commodity tasks

These are powerful arguments, but they easily become irrelevant if the standard you've adopted fails to gain traction or simply dies off. There are many reasons that could happen --  lack of support, over-complexity, rise of a simpler competing standard -- to name just a few.   Most of these are true of JCR, have been true of its many predecessors, and could cripple the anointed successor, the CMIS standard.

I am not suggesting that you give up on standards and follow proprietary approaches. Instead, what I do recommend is that you keep an open mind and don't just assume that a standards-based approach is always better, or automatically lowers your risks.

There are always trade-offs, so be sure to conduct due diligence to decide which standards are relevant for you. I delve into this in more detail in my Best Practices article titled "Do Standards in Content Technologies Matter?" -- available in TIMAF Information Management Best Practices Vol. 1.

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