This past week a momentous event in the history of VRML evolution occurred. VRML 1.0, 1.1, 2.0 and so on disappeared. VRML97 the official ISO standard, an IS, was approved. Official known as The Virtual Reality Modeling Language International Standard ISO/IEC 14772-1:1997. The "-1" after the 14772 means that this is Part 1 of a standard, some ISO standard have many parts.
The ISO standardization took place within the JTC1/SC24 (Computer Graphics) subcommittee. There are oodles of committees within the ISO organization.
Having seen a few ISO standards evolve, the VRML process ran at warp speed. Typically a technical document starts as a Committee Draft (CD), then it's mulled over, usually for years, and eventually gets turned into a Draft International Standards (DIS). The DIS is an almost complete document, it's supposed to be technically complete, and it eventually goes out for a vote and if it passes gets blessed as an International Standard (IS). It is not uncommon for this process to take more than 4 or 5 years. In the VRML situation the document was "Fast Tracked" which allows for a much shorter cycle time to the process.
A great deal of the technical work and most if not all of the document itself was produced and is acknowledged by the VRML Consortium as follow:
Now that there is an official standard one might ask who cares? This is where the issue of interoperability, conformance and stability enter. If content providers have to keep producing VRML worlds with little tweaks and differences for the different VRML browsers the overhead will eventually destroy VRML. The solution is for all VRML browsers to interpret the standard in a uniform way. The way to ensure uniform interpretation is via conformance testing. Conformance testing is the teeth of a standard. It is the mechanism by which users can be assured that a product actually implements a standard the way in which it was intended. The VRML Consortium has an active Conformance Working Group which is actively soliciting comments on browser interoperability problems.
Many people will have noticed a seeming lack of correspondence between the official title when used in full, International Organization for Standardization, and the short form, ISO. Shouldn't the acronym be " IOS" ? Yes, if it were an acronym - which it is not.
In fact, "ISO" is a word, derived from the Greek isos, meaning "equal ", which is the root of the prefix " iso-" that occurs in a host of terms, such as " isometric " (of equal measure or dimensions - Shorter Oxford English Dictionary) and " isonomy " (equality of laws, or of people before the law - ibid.).
From "equal" to "standard", the line of thinking that led to the choice of "ISO" as the name of the organization is easy to follow.
In addition, the name has the advantage of being valid in each of the organization's three official languages - English, French and Russian. The confusion that would arise through the use of an acronym is thus avoided, e.g. "IOS" would not correspond to the official title of the organization in French - Organisation internationale de normalisation.