Understanding XML: XML and the Long Tail

Quite a long quote from XML and the Long Tail, but it's worth it. There's a lot more of this quality in the original posting so don't miss it:

I've periodically wondered if the open standards movement has emerged principally because of the pressure coming from the long tail. Open standards in general do not benefit the front-runner; the more control that a given company has on the standards for expressing technology, the higher the artificial barrier to entry is, and consequently the easier it is to protect a dominant position.

Open Standards, on the other hand, reduce the barriers to entry, provide a means by which long-tail technologies can interact with one another, and make it possible for these agents to act in a concerted fashion; the cost of cooperation in this case so strongly overrides the cost of competition that a significant proportion of the long tail can in fact act as a single entity, at least as far as protecting those projects which may not necessarily have dominant mass but do have enough of a user base to be viable.

What this points to then is a point that standards developers themselves should take away with them - it is not necessary for a standard to be highly technically sophisticated, and indeed this may very well work against the adoption of the standard (which will take place first within the tail, not the head). It should rather be sufficient that it can be adopted (with some effort perhaps) by tail companies. It also points out that it is generally not in the best interest of tail projects to eschew those standards, as this effectively cuts them off from intercommunication with a "majority" of the tail.

Ultimately, this tends to push back into the head as well; if, as I suspect, standards adoption tends to occur first within the tail, the growing adoption of that standard creates pressure on those closer to the head to conform to the standard as well, which in turn makes the momentum stronger even closer to the head. Eventually, this forces the market leader into a position where they either adopt the standards or risk losing their market dominance in the face of overwhelming opposition from both competitors and clients.

Permalink: http://blog.iandavis.com/2005/11/understanding-xml-xml-and-the-long-tail/

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