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Google sneaks under standards radar

Avoids Microsoft pitched battle

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In stark contrast to Microsoft's recent battle, here and here, to get Open Office XML sanctioned as an international standard, Google has quietly pulled off a standardization coup for its XML-based KML geographic information language with barely a whisper of dissent.

The Open Geospatial Consortium recently approved KML as an open standard for web-based mapping applications.

Google submitted KML to OGC just under a year ago. The language - which enables geographical information to be added to maps and satellite images - was originally developed as part of Google Earth. It has become an important component of mashups and has been widely adopted as a de-facto standard by other vendors including Microsoft and Yahoo!.

Hmm... de-facto standards. Now, that's the kind of thing that used to be said about things like Windows and Office, and their power to pull the industry behind them.

KML's progress to open standard status has not been without criticism, though. Google's dominance of the standardization work at OGC is a concern. The team comprised staff only from Google and Galdos Systems. And KML has some limitations which might make it unsuitable for some advanced applications.

Suddenly, Google's starting to look even more like Microsoft, which succeeded in railroading its OOXML specification amid allegations of bussing in supporters to ISO ratification meetings.

OGC represents around 350 organizations involved in online geographical information technology and services. Members range from academic institutions and universities to leading IT names such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!.

In a further move into mapping, this time computational, Google recently revealed it is experimenting with technology to explore what it calls the Deep Web - areas of web pages that would not normally be scanned by web crawler software. The technique, as described by Google, scours HTML forms for additional data.

We look forward to Google exploiting its position as the internet's dominant search engine to quietly confer official status on another de-facto standard.®

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