While everyone is trying to take in the implications of the Eolas vs Microsoft case, there are other clouds forming on the horizon that could either develop into a full-blown hurricane or dissipate quietly. Over-dramatic? Only time will tell. The cause of this storm – a tentative proposal from the International Standards Organization (ISO) to raise fees for commonly used industry codes, including two-letter country abbreviations, used in many commercial software products. And, of course, the web.
The standards referred to – ISO 3166, ISO 4217, ISO 639 – cover country, currency and language codes, respectively, all of which are referred to in any number of standards documents drafted by the W3C and others. Until now, In addition, the ISO has not charged for use of any of its codes (for example, within a software application) but does charge copyright royalties for the purchase and reproduction of many of its standards documents.
How does this affect you? Well, if the ISO has its way and software manufacturers are forced to pay for adopting standards, you end up paying for it in higher software costs. Meanwhile web standards are harmed in general if other software manufacturers decide not to pay and instead miss out documenting these standards for fear of doing something illegal.
It’s been a difficult enough battle getting people to recognise that there is a
lang attribute (e.g
<html lang="en">) and how useful it can be (for example, for screen reader users who need to know when there has been a switch in the language being read out,
<p lang="fr">Ce n'est pas bon</p>) – to name just one HTML entity. It would be a shame if this ISO proposal goes ahead and pushes good practices like this back into obscurity.
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