I see Rick Jelliffe finds the previous post amusing.  Glad to entertain, but please note my comment. I definitely agree that "The whole point of a standard is to prevent one party from having control".  That's what the imprimatur of a standards organization offers.  The question I was posing  is how much work refining and field-testing a spec should done before submitting it to the standards organization.  The dominant paradigm has been to do fairly little and leave most of the work to the committee.  The alternative is submit fairly mature specs for standardization. This doesn't have to be done by some unholy alliance of the major companies; the W3C itself now has a mechanism to form "XGs" (X signifying something like "experimental" I guess) that can develop specs that are not on the Recommendation track, that can be picked up by a regular WG if they prove themselves.  But when the standard ultimately  comes  out, the organization, not the originator(s), own it in any case, whether it was developed by a WG, XG, or industry cabal. (My attempted comment on his blog hasn't shown up for whatever reason). 

Another interesting post on this general topic is Kurt Cagle's XML and the Long Tail.  "if, as I suspect, standards adoption tends to occur first within the tail, the growing adoption of that standard creates pressure on those closer to the head to conform to the standard as well, which in turn makes the momentum stronger even closer to the head. Eventually, this forces the market leader into a position where they either adopt the standards or risk losing their market dominance in the face of overwhelming opposition from both competitors and clients."  Kurt doesn't give specific examples, but let's think of some.  Presumably the model for this would be HTML, which definitely did emerge out of the long tail and displace the proprietary technologies of market leaders (e.g. MS's ill-fated Blackbird format).  RSS also comes to mind.  But most would argue that HTML and RSS moved out of the long tail not because they were Open Standards but because they were (originally) simple sloppy formats that absolutely nailed the 80/20 point of functionality at a vastly lower price/complexity than the stuff at the "head."  More recent examples of technologies emerging from the long tail and getting somewhat grudging support from the head might include REST/POX and AJAX/JSON.  In these cases, it's again a matter of fundamental standards (HTTP,XML, ECMAScript/Javasript having been universally implemented by the head) and sufficing where the head-favored alternatives added little value (or had not yet been widely deployed).

What drives these things is not standardization in the sense of their being a formal, approved spec that developers scrupulously adhere to.  Valid HTML is not particularly common on the Web, many so-called "REST" apps violate the HTTP spec in fairly dangerous ways, RSS is actually a constellation of informal conventions rather than a standard (the real-world success of the Atom 1.0 IETF standard is yet to be determined), and AJAX/JSON is more of a design pattern than anything resembling a standard. What does drive this is evolution -- a diverse pool of ideas, lots of experimentation / recombination, real-world success to the most practical ideas, and a weeding out of the bad ones.  At some point things stabilize to the point that certain ideas get enshrined as "standards" and the evolutionary process slows down for awhile, until the equilibrium gets punctuated by new challenges and ideas.  That's very consistent with the "standardize the stuff that has been field-tested, don't standardize it direct from the lab" approach I was advocating yesterday.

The larger context of many of these discussions seems to be the controversy surrounding the OASIS OpenDocument format and the Massachusetts CIO's effort to mandate it in that state's agencies.  As someone who hopes that MS Office's profitability continues to fund our little non-profit center in the bowls of the borg, I'm a bit biased, but c'mon folks:  This isn't about an Open Standard getting traction in the long tail and forcing the "head" to reluctantly do the Right Thing, this is about using government power to counter market realities. That seldom works in the IT industry, as the fact that Ada is a niche programming language today should attest :-) OASIS ODF will succeed if it meets an un-met need at a significantly lower real cost than the alternatives, the way HTML, RSS, etc. have succeeded.  Historically, it has been more or less irrelevant whether something hitting that sweet spot has been an Open Standard, bunch of conventions shared by a developer community, or a de facto standard derived from a proprietary technology.