Write the Rules That Make the Whole Web Sing

By Bradbury, Danny | The Evening Standard (London, England), June 13, 2001 | Go to article overview

Write the Rules That Make the Whole Web Sing


Bradbury, Danny, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: DANNY BRADBURY

Becoming a standards guru requires an academic background, says Danny Bradbury. But if you enter this circle, expect company ...

SIMPLE, non-technical language in the IT sector is about as difficult to find as a happy Conservative candidate on election night. Acronyms and jargon pervade the industry, largely because product vendors often need a new technical feature to sell to unwitting customers, and consultancies need something that makes them sound clever, enabling them to charge lots of money.

This simple fact has been the cause of much consternation for IT professionals, and even more grief for the business managers that employ them. It is no longer possible to have a computer system that sells things over the internet for you. Instead, you have to have a three-tier, EJB-based CRM system, punching through the firewall to a UDDI registry using SOAP and WSDL. This system might even have cross-platform integration to a COM+ architecture, which is tied into a SIP-based VoIP system. Not to mention your ebXML-based B2B system, implemented after migrating from EDI.

If that sounds complex, that is because some people in the industry want it that way.

A good thing for IT professionals is that if you are able to get involved in producing these technical standards, you will be forever honoured as the person that produced a technical specification that enabled two or more things to work together.

Do not underestimate the importance of that: the internet was built on such standards. Tim Bern-ers-Lee, the founder of the world wide web, defined the standard as part of his work with the Swiss physics laboratory CERN, and in geek circles, he is a god. Someone, after all, has to be a standards guru. If there was a card certifying you as a standards guru, Steve Kille would be carrying it. Kille was one of the people responsible for the LDAP standard, which, while not really known outside the IT sector, serves as the means for important directories of information to speak to each other over the internet.

Like many standards gurus, Kille came from an academic background. He was a researcher working on network communications systems at University College London, and ended up as a senior research fellow, which is when he worked on LDAP before leaving in 1992 to form his own company.

"In terms of most of the people in the standard arena, I can't think of anyone that would describe standards guru as their primary raison d'etre," says Kille. Instead, these things just happen.

He was doing some work in the appropriate area when he came together with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which was hoping to publish a standard in this area. He ended up chairing an IETF group on the subject.

BRIAN Whetten, chief scientist at middleware company Talarian, is also heavily involved in the IETF and is working on parts of Sun Microsystems de facto Java technology, which is a standard inasmuch as lots of people use it. …

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