foo enabling vs restrictive standards

Enabling vs Restrictive Standards

“You can’t learn in school what the world is going to do next year”, said Henry Ford.

My brother, Alexander Streater, refined this for his school in Japan: “We are no longer in the Industrial Age. We are now in the Information Age. In the Information Age, Education should teach people how to think, not what to think.”

The same principle applies to the design of internet standards. You cannot predict the applications people will invent next year. But you can provide a technology infrastructure which empowers innovation.

And standards are essential. But there are two types of standards.

Restrictive standards

Restrictive standards tell you what you can do. They have given rise to the saying: “We love standards – that’s why we have so many of them”. This is because they restrict how you can behave, and new use cases require new standards. They are like a railway track: you can drive your train anywhere, provided the track and points agree. MPEG is such a standard.

Enabling standards

Enabling standards, on the other hand, tell you how you can do what you want. Enabling standards are much more powerful than restrictive standards. They are like the road network. You can create your own routes and you don’t need anyone else to approve your route.

In the old days, hardware manufacturers patented MPEG, their proprietary restrictive standard, which has somehow managed to permeate into HTML 5. Agreeing the standard, designing chips, and then products required a long sales life to justify the investment. Updating the standard sets this whole multi-year process in motion again, requiring further investment. As a result, these standards hang around for years, while the technology and applications move on.

But cloud software blows restrictive standards out of the water.

There is another internet standard for video.

This is because the internet also supports enabling standards: twenty years ago, Java led the way, and now JavaScript is ubiquitous.

But, I hear you think, those are not video standards. But, incredibly they are. As enabling standards, they allow you to do anything, and that includes video. They can also support video features not available in the restrictive MPEG standard.

Standards have enabled Forbidden to pioneer cloud video services. With customers using Forbidden’s web software on “out of the box” PCs, we have had easy access to a vast audience. And every HTML 5 browser supports Forbidden’s video technology.

The enabling standards for the internet not only support video, but even video capabilities which have yet to be invented.

Stephen B Streater
Founder and Director of R&D

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