Had a weird thought just now.
The world of computing is becoming like the Tower of Babel. Where once there was one or a few options, people create their own variant which may gain in some popularity and take away from the dominant’s popularity.
In order to not step on people’s toes we allow them to use any email program they wish. This means we have to support Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, Netscape Mail, etc. in all of their versions and idiosyncracies. Similar divisiveness can be found in operating systems, email servers, anti-virus protection, web browsers, productivity suites, web production packages, portals, content management systems, and on and on and on!
Sometimes we are expected to figure out why something does not work when we never knew the software existed. Sometimes we can only make educated guesses because the software is not freely available to us.
The ability to choose is great! Having the option of abandoning the email program or web browser I currently use in favor of something that works better makes me feel better when I run into a problem.
In some ways, I believe the lack of standards is what supports the computer industry. Because people have options, every small player has a shot at making the big leagues.
In some cases too many options has stagnated true innovation. There are almost as many flavors of open source software as there are open source developers. The lack of combined effort to push out the products has kept the exciting new things on hold as only a handful work on them. The hope is that the products that stagnate are not what the end users would like. My frustration is that I find products I like that no one else uses, I guess. Because someone starts something and it falls by the wayside, it appears that no true innovation is really occuring.
Like the Tower of Babel, sometimes people will get together and start a project with grand dreams about what they will accomplish (bringing Microsoft to its knees?). Only reality comes to play. People have different ideas about what is great. This causes dissention and the group fragments to follow their dreams. Of course, not all projects end like this. Just enough not to give us more than a few products each year that seem well developed.
More to think about…