Format war  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A format war describes competition between mutually incompatible proprietary formats that compete for the same market, typically for data storage devices and recording formats for electronic media. It is often characterized by political and financial influence on content publishers by the developers of the technologies. Developing companies may be characterized as engaging in a format war if they actively oppose or avoid interoperable open industry technical standards in favor of their own.

A format war emergence can be explained because each vendor is trying to exploit cross-side network effects in a two-sided market. There are also a social force to stop a format war: when one of them wins as de facto standard, it solves a coordination problem for the format users.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Format war" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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