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A de facto standard is a custom or convention that has achieved a dominant position by public acceptance or market forces (for example, by early entrance to the market).[1] De facto is a Latin phrase (literally "in fact"), here meaning "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established".

The term de facto standard is used in contrast with standards defined by organizations or set out in law (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.[1]

In social sciences a voluntary standard that is also a de facto standard is a typical solution to a coordination problem.[2] 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.[2]


Examples of some well known de facto standards:

Examples of file formats:

Various connectors and interconnect standards:

Materials and units of packaging:

Other examples:


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:

An example of an ongoing dispute is OASIS's OpenDocument format vs Microsoft's Office Open XML format.

See also


  1. ^ a b Campbell, Robert; Pentz, Ed; Borthwick, Ian (2012). Academic and Professional Publishing. Chandos Publishing. p. 9.
  2. ^ a b Edna Ullmann-Margalit (5 March 2015). The Emergence of Norms. OUP Oxford. p. 94. ISBN 978-0-19-106458-6.
  3. ^ Berners-Lee, Tim (November 1995). "Hypertext Markup Language – 2.0". MIT.
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ "ISO 32000-1:2008 – Document management -- Portable document format -- Part 1: PDF 1.7". Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  6. ^ "Adobe – Release PDF for Industry Standardization FAQ". Retrieved 17 April 2015.
  7. ^ Zussman, John Unger (1982-08-23). "Let's keep those systems open". InfoWorld. p. 29. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  8. ^ Beebe, Nelson H. F. (2003). "25 Years of TEX and METAFONT: Looking Back and Looking Forward" (PDF). TUGboat: 10.