When I get into a discussion about what library to use, or what tool to use, some people bring up the argument:
But it is the standard!
You know what? You can put your standard where the sun doesn’t shine!
Don’t get me wrong, some standards are awesome. I have boxes of hex cap screws. And boxes of nuts. And three different sets of wrenches. And I have never a problem of finding a matching triplet. Except once when I had a screw that wasn’t shaped according to the metric system. A PITA. The metric system and the norms for screws are so awesome because everybody adheres to them (at least where I live). And everybody adheres to them within reasonable precision. Of course if you measure exact enough, you will find out that certain pairs of screw and nut fit better than others. But I don’t care as long as I can put the nut on the screw and use it for fixing whatever needs fixing. And the final reason: I need lots of screws and nuts. If I ever only need one screw with a matching nut, I’d just get a matching pair and couldn’t care less if I find ever a matching nut again.
Unfortunately software standards often aren’t like that. For various reasons:
- They aren’t precise enough. I don’t care if two webspheres adhere to some JSR xxx or not. What I do care is: Does my web application work on that websphere. And if “that webserver” happens to be a different one, then the one I use in development, chances are, it won’t. That’s because basically there is next to zero tolerance in software. It’s not so much that software has to be perfect, or better than hardware. It’s more that with hardware it is often easier to determine what the properties are that matter, and what doesn’t matter.
- I’m not going to mix 5 different Dependency Injection Containers from 5 different vendors. I’m going to use one. The 10th production server will have the exact same version of the exact same DI Container as the first 9, or somebody will have to do a lot explaining. The basic use case for standards just isn’t there.
- The standard is not what some committee says, but what everybody uses. So, it is nice that Java Utils Logging is the official standard for logging in the Javaverse, but if you want to use stuff that everybody knows, you better use log4j or slf4j. By the way this one is true for ‘real world’ standards as well.
So when we talk about libraries and tools the questions are:
- Does it solve the problem?
- Can the developers use it?
- Does it work with the rest of the stack?
- Can operations support it?
And the answer to “is it a standard?” is “Go away!”