Let's back up a bit. Software standards are a funny thing. It is considered safe to follow standards, and ample advice exists about the perils of going "against the grain," "against the herd," or "against the tide." And yet, somebody creates those standards, right? How does that happen, and by whom? I should start by mentioning that standards are not always associated with an official standards body. There are times when an individual company creates a solution that fills a need well enough that it achieves a form of ubiquity: a de facto standard. Some of these software standards are so widely used and accepted that many developers forget they are not in the public domain and are (in fact) owned and controlled by a private entity. A few examples are Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF, which has since been moved into the public domain as an ISO standard) and CompuServe's Graphics Interchange Format (GIF, the patent for which has subsequently expired).
Microsoft has attempted to create a few standards as well. For instance, the XML format used to store word processing, spreadsheet, and other productivity application documents (e.g., Microsoft Office document formats) has become a standard. Even though other productivity software packages have their own native document formats, almost all of them both import and export Microsoft document formats. Microsoft tried to leverage the ubiquity of Office to create a competing printable document format called XML Paper Specification (XPS) to replace PDF format. Even though XPS is superior to PDF on almost every technical level, it failed to attain mass appeal. Many didn't want Microsoft to control the printable document format, so it was a tough sell.
Software development has always been a fast-changing career option. As in the rest of life, the best solutions don't always win, so you just have to shrug your shoulders sometimes and go with the flow. Take a deep breath. It's all going to work out, so you just need to make a new plan, Stan. Just get yourself free.
Jonathan Goodyear is president of ASPSOFT, an Internet consulting firm in Orlando. He is Microsoft regional director for Florida, an ASP.NET MVP, a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer, and a contributing editor for DevProConnections.