How do updates to widely used electronic technologies/platforms/protocols/concepts that nobody really “owns” or has expired IP protections? For example, HTML, email, SMS, ACH transfers, etc.?


My understanding is that IP protections on email, HTML, etc. have long since expired and there are concepts that nobody really owns. So how do these things get updated in a way that everyone can agree on? Like when HTML 4 became HTML 5, who decided that would happen and how did they ensure compatibility with legacy systems? How did they come to agree on how the update would work so that we didn’t end up in a Betamax/VHS situation? Similarly, if the way email works needs to change due to changing technology, how does that happen? Who decides a change needs to happen when nobody “owns” email or HTML? It’s not like Microsoft, Oracle, or Apple, just unilaterally rolls out an update.

In: Technology

All the big companies get together and propose new standards, then they all agree to adopt the new standards going forward once they have them worked out. (but the real answer is often that it’s very very hard to ever update a protocol ever again after a certain point of ‘good enough’ development and a lot of them slow to a crawl)

HTML is governed by the [W3C]( which is made up of 451 member companies, universities, etc.

A lot of standards will have a similar organizations where the industry basically comes together to come up with and agree on specifications.

[IEEE]( is a big one that covers many different standards.