Mechanisms in the Spread of Standards

  • Henk J. de Vries


An essential element in the definition of standardization (Chapter 8) is the intention and expectation that standards will be repeatedly or continuously used, during a certain period, by a substantial number of the parties for whom they are meant. This chapter lists mechanisms that can be used to assess a claim of expected use (compare Subsection 8.4.6, B). Insight into these mechanisms is valuable when considering whether or not a standardization project is feasible, and which SDO would be best equipped for such a project.


Network Externality Conversion Cost Dominant Design Syntax Rule Gateway Technology 


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  1. 1.
    This chapter has been updated to April 1998.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    However, in the literature, no other mechanisms have been found.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Meanwhile, VHS has become the common standard.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    According to Cowan (1991, p. 810), standardization due to market forces, compared to standardization by authorities, enhances the danger of locking into inferior technologies. However, the opposite may also apply, as is demonstrated by the SECAM television system that was enforced by French authorities.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Katz and Shapiro (1985) offer a basic contribution to this issue.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    For example, Apple Macintosh computers.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Conner gives conditions under which encouraging a clone may pay.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    It is debatable whether these rules are not on bad terms with clause 6.1.2 of NNI’s Huishoudelijk reglement [Rules and Regulations] (NNI, 1994, p. 15).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    In the case described by Koehorst, De Vries, and Wubben (1999) on the introduction of a standard crate, the initiator was a dominant agent: the retailer with the largest market share. Others had to follow. Though all retailers experienced advantages in terms of efficiency and costs, the relative competitive position shifted in favour of the biggest party, being the initiator (Belleflamme, 1997, p. 12). So the small companies had a competitive disadvantage. Despite this, they decided to bandwagon.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    There is one exception: the European Directive on Pressure Equipment (European Parliament & Council of the European Union, 1997) refers to these standards.Google Scholar
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    Ten years from 1998. In 1993, DIN expected a transition period of five years (Vogel, Ed., 1993, p. 7–77).Google Scholar
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    This has been argued by Lichard (1997) in a case about IBM’s OS/2 standard for operating systems. OS/2 competed with the Windows 95 standard and reinforced the loss of market share of IBM’s own DOS standard.Google Scholar
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    Bongers (1980) and Meyer (1995) provide advanced studies on g ( ) y ( ) p preference ranges in standardization. Short introductions on this topic can be found in Simons & De Vries (1997, pp. 61–70) and Verman (1973, pp. 367–369).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Examples of such structures are offered by Clarke (1990) (software), ISO (1995b) (geometrical product specification), Ryan (1995) (information technology and telecommunication), and Shackleton & Ziegenfuss (1997) (welding).Google Scholar
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    The sequence of the keys, however, deviates from the one used at computer keyboards. This is a lost opportunity from an ergonomic point of view.Google Scholar
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    An example of this is offered by Hildebrandt (1995, pp. 34–35).Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    For example, ISO/IEC 7498–1 describes the Open Systems Interconnection model (ISO/IEC, 1994a), ISO/TR 14638 describes a standard’s structure for geometrical product specifications (ISO, 1995b), CEN/TC 230 N229 describes a modular approach for standards on determination of heavy metals in environmental samples (NNI, 1995b).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    A package of standards is a group, as small as possible, of inter-related standards (CEN Technical Board Resolution BT 20/1993 Revised). Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    EAN = European Article Number. Nowadays EAN is the acronym of the International Article Numbering Association (see Subsection 2.2.4).Google Scholar
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    The 1997 IEC General Assembly discussed three examples of ISO/IEC controversies, namely standards for safety of medical instruments, electricity generators, and laser diodes (Liess & Salffner, 1998, p. 33).Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    A free market is a basic assumption in this chapter. In centralized economies other mechanisms might apply: in that case the government is the dominant agent.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Egyedi (1996, p. 309) even concludes the field of standardization is best characterized in terms of group processes.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henk J. de Vries
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Rotterdam School of ManagementErasmus University RotterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Nederlands Normalisatie InstituutDelftThe Netherlands

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