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De Facto Standards in Information Systems: Definition & Overview

Instructor: Kent Beckert

Kent is an adjunct faculty member for the College of Business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and has a Master's degree in Technical Management.

In this lesson we will discuss de facto standards and how they compare with de jure standards, including how these standards impact business and our personal lives. We will also learn the benefits of using a standard and the negative ramifications if they are not used.

What is a Standard

By definition a standard is a set of rules or guidelines approved and monitored by an authorized organization. Every day, in one way or another, we use a variety of standards as part of our daily private and professional lives. We use standards for communicating, taking care of our health, building things, cooking, growing food, baking a cake or just relaxing. Standards provide a basis or foundation by which activities are governed, benefiting us personally as well as, helping businesses, their consumers and the economy.

Some of the benefits of having approved and established standards for activities, products or services are listed below:

  • Increased safety and reliability
  • Protection inflammatory business interests
  • Enables interoperability among various devices
  • Encourages innovation and increases competition

Let's look at some of the ramifications that may occur without standards:

  • Faulty product operation
  • Inferior quality
  • Incompatibility with other devices
  • Increases risk for danger due to lack of safety standards
  • Less manufacturers - limiting selection

Based on the information provided above, we can see why businesses and organizations encourage the use of standards in their operations. However, creating, maintaining and controlling a standard of any kind can be cost-prohibitive. One of the less-expensive methods for creating or establishing a standard is by making it a de facto standard. To accomplish this we must have a product or service that dominates the market such as Microsoft Windows.

De facto Standard - Key Words
De facto standard

What is a de facto standard?

A de facto standard achieves its status through dominance of the market in which it applies. Examples of de facto standards include: the QWERTY keyboard, the Windows operating system and breadcrumb trail technology; a navigation aid used when moving through a website that indicates the current page in relation to the website's remaining pages.

Just because a standard is considered a de facto standard does not mean that it is the best. Many times de facto standards gain their status because they were the first to arrive on the market scene, or because a dominating organization imposes the standard on others forcing its usage. Often inferior de facto standards remain due to the costs involved when attempting to switch to another standard. A good example of a sub-standard product remaining on the shelves, happened in the 1970's between the VHS standard and its rival Beta standard. The majority of experts in the video recording industry agreed that the Beta standard was technically advanced and superior to the VHS standard. Beta standard proponents, due to cost and time, were unable to sway the public confidence and lost the battle and the market share.

What is a de jure standard?

In contrast with de facto standards, de jure standards have been approved, endorsed and ratified by a formal organization like an official industry group or a government office. Organizations like the International Standards Organization (ISO) have established procedures applicable to all standardization proposals. These procedures require a table discussion among experts followed by a final vote to determine approval.

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