De facto standard

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De facto (Latin for “in fact”) standards are those that are essentially market-driven. De facto standards arise when a specific product captures so much of the marketshare that other companies find themselves developing products based on the original (i.e., clones, associated products).

There are a number of manufacturers involved in LAN technology. Many major players have developed products that are now accepted as de facto standards. For example, a consortium comprising DEC (acquired by Compaq, which was then acquired by HP), Intel, and Xerox was responsible for taking Robert Metcalf’s Ethernet out to the industry. This proposal was eventually adopted (and changed) by IEEE to become IEEE 802.3.

IBM was the originator of the token ring LAN, which was eventually standardized as IEEE 802.5, and it pushed for the standardization of its bridging strategy, Source Route Bridging (SRB). At the time, IBM was one of the juggernauts of the industry and had the muscle to influence standards organizations.

Apple created an entire suite of networking protocols known as AppleTalk, and a LAN standard known as LocalTalk, which it implemented in its early line of MacIntosh computers. LocalTalk used a MAC scheme known as CSMA/CA, ideas from which became part of the wireless LAN world.

Microsoft never contributed significantly to LANs per se, but it did pioneer several networking protocols to allow microcomputers to directly intercommunicate with one another across a LAN. To this day Microsoft maintains an iron grip on the desktop, although some are beginning to wonder if Google might actually challenge that grip someday.

And then there is Cisco, today’s juggernaut. Cisco has introduced many new technologies and pushed for many new standards that align closely with its internal technology. Cisco has actually created relatively few original technologies. But Cisco is masterful at the art of spotting promising startup technologies, acquiring the smaller companies that have created them, and integrating those things into its product line.