OASIS versus the W3C

Don Park writes

OASIS is now looking at a lionshare of key specs that will dominate the Internet and intranets in the near future. Compared to them, W3C is looking pretty devastated [with disinterest and hopeless dreams] at this point.

I’ve heard that from a number of people over the past couple of years, but I just don’t see it that way. Yes, certainly the W3C has been taking lots of slack from lots of folks who think that Web services are some wonderful new thing, both inside (from W3C members), and out (press). But there’s much more at play here than that.

The fundamental difference between OASIS and the W3C, is that the W3C exists to maintain and enhance an existing software system, while OASIS does not. OASIS’s approach resembles little more than a random land grab, attempting to stake out territory without any consideration for its inherent value. Take Don’s list of specs, for example; SAML, XACML, Liberty, BPEL4WS. There is effectively no architectural consistency at all between those specs, so the chances of them ever working well together as part of a single system (without considerable effort) are pretty darned low. And that’s without even considering that I don’t think they will see much widespread deployment individually (though SAML and XACML aren’t too bad).

Thinking back over the recent history of influential software standards related organizations such as OMG, IETF, W3C, WAPforum/OMA, etc.. the only other one that I can think of that didn’t have a legacy system or architecture to protect is the Opengroup (though the OSF had DCE). The others all had some means of ensuring architectural consistency. The IETF has the IESG and Areas for constraining work. The OMG created the Architecture Board. The WAPforum had an Architectural Consistency group. And the W3C has Activities, Staff, the Director, and more recently, the TAG.

So if OASIS wants to go the way of the Opengroup, they’re certainly on track.

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