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Although much of the growing digital economy rests on the Internet and World Wide Web, which in turn rest on information technology standards, it is unclear how much longer the current momentum can be sustained absent new standards. To discover whether today's standards processes are adequate, where they are taking the industry, and whether government intervention will be required to address systemic failures in their development, RAND undertook five case studies. So far, it seems, the current standards process remains basically healthy, with various consortia taking up the reins of the process, and the rise of open-source software has also aided vendor-neutral standardization. Nevertheless, the prospects for semantic standards to fulfill XML's promise are uncertain. Can the federal government help? Its policy on software patents clearly merits revisiting. More proactively, the National Institute for Standards and Technology could intensify its traditional functions: developing metrologies; broadening the technology base; and constructing, on neutral ground, terrain maps of the various electronic-commerce standards and standards contenders.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    The Place of Standards

  • Chapter Three

    Lessons from Five Case Studies

  • Chapter Four

    The Emerging Challenge of Common Semantics

  • Chapter Five

    Standards Development Institutions

  • Chapter Six

    The Place of Standards

  • Chapter Seven


  • Appendix A

    The Web As We Know It

  • Appendix B

    The Extensible Markup Language

  • Appendix C

    Knowledge Organization and Digital Libraries

  • Appendix D

    Payments, Property, and Privacy

  • Appendix E

    Standards and the Future Value Chain

  • Appendix F

    On the Meaning of Standard

This research was sponsored by RAND's Science and Technology Unit.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.