De facto standard

A de facto standard is a custom, convention, product, or system that has achieved a dominant position by public acceptance or market forces (such as early entrance to the market). De facto is a Latin phrase that means in fact (literally by or from fact) in the sense of "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established", as opposed to de jure.

The term de facto standard is used in contrast with obligatory standards (also known as "de jure standards"); or to express the dominant voluntary standard, when there is more than one standard available for the same use.

In social sciences, a voluntary standard that is also a de facto standard is a typical solution to a coordination problem.[1] The choice of a de facto standard tends to be stable in situations in which all parties can realize mutual gains, but only by making mutually consistent decisions. In contrast, an enforced "de jure standard" is a solution to the prisoner's problem.[1]


A selection of well-known and illustrative examples of de facto and de jure standards are:

Examples of long-time de facto but never de jure standards (for computer file formats):

Other examples:

Standards battles

There are many examples of de facto consolidation (of a standard) by market forces and competition, in a two-sided market, after a dispute. Examples:

Examples of standards that are "in dispute" for turns de facto:

See also


  1. 1 2 Ullmann-Margalit, Edna (1977). The Emergence of Norms. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-824411-8.
  3. "ISO 19005-1:2005 - Document management -- Electronic document file format for long-term preservation -- Part 1: Use of PDF 1.4 (PDF/A-1)". Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  4. "ISO 32000-1:2008 - Document management -- Portable document format -- Part 1: PDF 1.7". Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  5. "Adobe - Release PDF for Industry Standardization FAQ". Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  6. Zussman, John Unger (1982-08-23). "Let's keep those systems open". InfoWorld. p. 29. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
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