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Jun 28 2004

Skuzzy Standards

Some of the backup equipment at my office had to get replaced and upgraded recently. This should normally be a very quick and easy fix. But it took over 4 weeks. The problem: Incompatible SCSI cables/devices/drivers/etc.

Due to these incompatibility issues, lots of new hardware had to be purchased, and the only thing that is still the same as it used to be is the tape drive itself (yes, we have to keep the tape drives around for retrieval purposes only). All SCSI cards, cables, and terminators had to be replaced to work with the new computer and upgraded OS. Why did this become such a colossal nightmare? Because SCSI was never fully standardized.

As web developers, we run into this road-block all the time. A site needs to be updated, but it was made using table-based layouts, messy JavaScript, font-tag definitions, and the like. Does the final product work? Of course it does. But when it needs to be updated, most of the pieces need to be replaced, and that costs money.

I know that most of the web community (at least the subset that’s reading this) does not need to be convinced that Web Standards are the right way to go. If you fit into this group, this example can be used as more fuel for you to convince clients, supervisors, employees, friends, family members, etc. But for those who are not convinced, my goal is to show that Web Standards is not about forcing particular methods, or narrowing the scope of web technology. It’s all about efficiency, ease-of-use, and cost-effectiveness.

SCSI is a dying technology. Why? Because it wasn’t properly contained. Am I saying that the web will die without standards? Most likely not, but as the benefits of standards continue to be realized, it’s my opinion that non-standard sites will have a harder and harder time keeping up.