Phil R. Karn (karn@flash.bellcore.com)
Fri, 6 Mar 87 00:12:42 est

Indeed, one wonders if the computer public is at all aware of the fact that
the Internet has been quietly doing what the ISO hawkers are only promising
in big bold trade rag headlines. On the other hand, most vendors have
certainly heard of TCP/IP, considering that most of them already sell it,
so they have less of an excuse.

I think there are other, darker forces at play here. Recent developments
(or, more precisely, the lack of same) in the high definition TV standards
game illustrate what I think is going on in our own field. It seems that
over the past few years, certain Japanese companies have led the way by
developing a complete line of compatible, working, high quality video
components. You can buy their stuff off the shelf right now. At a recent
international standards convention in Europe, the Americans and the
Canadians enthusiastically supported the Japanese standard. After all, it
works and it's available now. "Can't have that", the Europeans replied. "It'd
be too hard to scan-convert back to our existing 625-line 50-Hz formats".
And everybody went home without an international standard.

Really now. And they said it with a straight face. This has to be about the
thinnest technical excuse anyone has ever invented. The *real* reason (and
this was openly stated in a EUROPEAN trade journal editorial) is that the
European manufacturers deeply resent the Japanese head start into the high
definition TV business. There is just no way they are going to approve
anybody else's standard, regardless of how good it is technically or whether
it's good for the users or not. It'd be bad for business.

To the European vendors, I am truly sorry that the Americans got a head
start by inventing TCP/IP and being the first to build big, operational
internetworks in which the common carriers ("PTTs") are only minor
subcomponents. To the American vendors of protocol software, I am truly
sorry that so many public domain implementations of TCP/IP are out there
stealing your sales. To those well-meaning souls in the Federal government
and elsewhere who naively trust vendor groups and standards organizations to
know what's best for your networking needs: take a look at the prices
they're charging for the few ISO packages out there. After you've put your
eyeballs back into your head, kick out the salesman and take a good close
look at just what these slickly advertised protocols will do for you (as
distinguished from your vendor's stock price). Then decide if you want to
throw everything away and start over just so you can use the magic phrase
"ISO compatible" to describe your network.

TCP/IP is uniquely successful among communications standards because it was
one of the very few ever designed by the USERS (who just want to get their
work done as efficiently and as cheaply as possible) instead of the VENDORS
(who want to make as much money as possible, an entirely different goal).
What's good for General Motors may sometimes be good for the country, but in
the protocol standards game it's a different story. Michael Padlipsky was
right on target on this one. Only the most hopelessly naive user succumbs to
the "Illusion of Vendor Support."

These are obviously my own personal opinions only.

Phil Karn

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