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Reference implementation

From Academic Kids

In computing, a reference implementation (or, infrequently, sample implementation) is a software example of a standard for use in helping others implement their own versions of the standard. A standard is much easier to understand with a working example to hand.

"A reference implementation is, in general, an implementation of a specification to be used as a definitive interpretation for that specification. During the development of the ... conformance test suite, at least one relatively trusted implementation of each interface is necessary to (1) discover errors or ambiguities in the specification, and (2) validate the correct functioning of the test suite."

from: Requirements for GSC-IS Reference Implementations, Eric Dalci, Elizabeth Fong, Alan Goldfine, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Information Technology Laboratory, June 5, 2003

"Reference Implementation

  • Developed concurrently with spec and test suite
  • Verifies that specification is implementable
  • Enables the test suite to be tested
  • Serves as Gold Standard against which other implementations can be measured
  • Helps to clarify intent of specification where conformance tests are inadequate"

from: Conformance Testing: An Industry Perspective, Patrick Curran, Manager, Java Conformance Testing Sun Microsystems, December 10, 2003

The reference implementation may or may not be of production quality. The Fraunhofer reference implementation of MP3 is considered of lower encoding quality than many other implementations, such as LAME. However, the X.org reference implementation of the X Window System is not only ready for use, but is increasingly popular on open source Unix-like operating systems as-is. (This is helped by the current version being a fork of the popular XFree86 implementation that X.org then declared to be the reference implementation.)

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