This would appear to be a reasonable extrapolation of the $10,000,000/standard estimate developed by Spring and Weiss.

Network externality is an economic concept holding that in certain circumstances the size of the market or community that adheres to a given approach increases the value of each instance. For example, the value of a phone increases with the size of the network. Somewhat less directly, the value of a PC increases with the number of PC's in that the increased market size increases the number of suppliers and the competition reducing the individual component or product cost.

The decision of a group to develop a standard may be motivated by any of a number of factors. The process of standards development gives a group an opportunity to continue to meet. There may be significant social and individual prestige gains for the participants that warrant this kind of activity. Alternatively, the participants view the standard as a means to legitimizing the technology. Yet again, the participants may view the committee as a neutral forum where otherwise competing groups can drop the competition and focus on inventing a technology, e.g. FDDI.

Reflecting on his comments, Rutkowski would subsequently note that the traditional standards development organizations have ``tended to view themselves as the sole judge of what constitutes an official International Standards Development body, or what is an appropriate development process - even asserting a role in certifying acceptability of other bodies.'' He notes that this may lock these organizations into inflexible positions and impede cooperation with other bodies.

When this discussion has taken place, the acceptance of an increased role for the government in the process has always been accompanied by the caveat that it only makes sense if the government can find a way to contribute to and support the process in such a way that the direction and focus of IT standardization remains in the hands of the consumers and suppliers that currently direct the effort.

Where an individual could not accept the final position that emerged from the group and felt very strongly about their position, such is noted as a footnote to the main discussion.

The problem is what to do about the individual who says he works for a company but is not representing it, or the consultant who refuses to say who is paying him. There is a view that only the technical arguments count; who you are is irrelevant. This would be true if standardization was for purely technical purposes. But it isn't, so it is relevant.

A similar scenario can be painted at the international level, particularly in countries where independent thought and action are not necessarily encouraged. I am concerned at this point that we may be close to the point of collapse (that is, to a world where there is no perceived standardization process) - and if so, we need to think about what ought to replace it.

Rutkowski views the IETF as an ad hoc structure targeted at a particular goal, and thus less ``ossified''.

The cost of participation in consortia greatly complicates this issue. While the cost of participation in many of the standards developing organizations is rather minimal, such is not the case for consortia, as Weiss and Cargill[34] have pointed out. In addition, the fact that these costs may be substantial can make them much more visible and much harder to justify than costs buried in travel budgets and contributed personnel time.

Michael Spring
Mon Nov 27 18:45:46 EST 1995