who cares about standards

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A talk I did at the first London WSG meeting in 2006 about the history of the screw.



Who Cares AboutStandards?

1by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

A Brief History of Standards

2by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

Early Standards

3by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

Stones used as a unit of weight in 7th century BC Egypt

In 1120 King Henry I created the ell unit of length

Meter first used in 1797

However, the history of modern standards

is the history of the screw

4by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

Invented by the Greeks in 5th Century BC

The Archimedes Screw was used to draw water and irrigate farms

Screws were used to press clothes, olives and wine

Romans created the first wood screws from bronze or silver

Screws were lost with the fall of the Roman Empire

5by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

6by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

Rediscovered during the Renaissance

First written reference in the 1400s

Used in the Guttenburg Press

Leonardo Da Vinci influenced by the screw

Not all screws were made equal

7by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

Screws were hand turned and each one was different

Nuts and bolts had to be matched by hand

Impractical and Inefficient

The Lathe

8by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

Leonardo Da Vinci designed a screw cutting machine

First actual machine built by Jaques Besson in 1568

The modern lathe was created in 1797 by Henry Maudsley

This all changed thanks to Sir Joseph Whitworth

Whitworth was Henry Maudsleys apprentice

Became foreman in Charles Babbages engineering works

Suggested the first screw standards in 1841

By 1860 the Whitworth screw was in general use in Great Britain

9by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

The American Standard

On 21st April 1864, William Sellers proposed a new US standard screw thread

By 1883, most US railroads used the Sellers thread

Britain adopted this thread towards the end of World War 2

Became one of the first official standards

Today there are over 800,000 different standards

10by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

What are standards?

11by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

Definition 1: An agreed set of rules or characteristics


Standards are all around us


Standard units such as the meter, kilogram and secondStandard screw fittings such as "slotted" and "PhillipsStandard bed sizes such as double, queen and kingStandard media formats such as VHS, CD and DVD

Benefits of standards


Standards ease communication.e.g. You can tell somebody the train station is 100m away and they know how far you mean.

Standards encourage interoperability. e.g. You plug your DVD player into your TV and you know it will work.

Standards make life easier.e.g. You can buy a toaster without having to worry that the plug will fit your socket

Definition 2: An agreed measure of quality


Standards are all around us


British standard kite markInternational Organisation for Standardisation (ISO)Chartered accountant or engineerHotel star ratingPADI 5 star diving centreEU energy ratingMichelin starCORGI registered gas fitter

Benefits of standards


Standards ensure safety and durability.e.g. Goods or services with a BSI kite mark should be safe and fit for purpose.

Standards guarantee a level of expertise.e.g. To become a chartered accountant, you have to have achieved a certain level of experience and knowledge.

Standards are a mark of professionalism.e.g. Though not required to teach diving, being a PADI instructor shows that you are a professional.

Types of standards



Whats this got to do with the web?

19by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

Browser Wars


The languages that power the web were developed over time by the browser manufacturersBy creating their own standards, they hoped to force out the competitionBy the mid 90s many websites were browser specific

The March to Standards


The W3C created a set of language recommendationsDeveloper pressure helped force browser supportAll modern browsers support there recommendations.Some better than othersThese recommendations became known as web standards

The Standards Philosophy


Separating structure, presentation and behaviourAdding meaning to a documentWriting quality code that will last

Benefits of web standards


Standards ease communication.If the site is built using standards, its much easier to hand over to other developers

Standards encourage interoperability. Sites are more accessible and forward compatible

Standards make life easier.The code is easier to maintain. Easy to make site-wide changes

Benefits of web standards


Standards ensure safety and durability.Better written code will last longer

Standards guarantee a level of expertise.You need to be a reasonably proficient developer to build sites using web standards

Standards are a mark of professionalism.Insisting on web standards helps separate the professionals from the cowboys

However the standards aren't perfect


Standards based sites aren't necessarily faster loading than non-standards sitesLarge CSS files are difficult to maintain. Particularly thanks to the cascadePresentation is still tied to structure (to a certain extent)CSS layout is less than idealInconsistent browser implementation(X)HTML and CSS development is stalling

Web standards are becoming irrelevant

26by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

and thats a good thing

Most clients dont care about standards

and why should they?

27by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

A change of focus

Information Architecture


User Experience



Client and user goals

28by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com

I dont care about standards

and neither should you

29by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com


Thank You

30by Andy Budd of Clearleft.com