Standardization, in the context related to technologies and industries, is the process of establishing a technical standard among competing entities in a market, where this will bring benefits without hurting competition. As an example, all of Europe now uses 230 volt 50 Hz AC mains grids and GSM cell phones, and (at least officially) measures lengths in metres.
In the context of social criticism and social sciences, standardization often means the process of establishing standards of various kinds, and improving efficiency to handle people, their interactions, cases, and so forth. Examples include formalization of judicial procedure in court, and establishing uniform criteria for diagnosing mental disease. Standardization in this sense is often discussed along with (or synonymously to) such large-scale social changes as modernization, bureaucratization, homogenization, and centralization of society.
Standards can be de facto, which means they are followed for convenience, or de jure, which means they are used because of (more or less) legally binding contracts and documents. Government agencies often have to follow standards issued by official standardization organizations. Following such standards can also be a prerequisite for doing business on certain markets, with certain companies, or within certain consortia.
There are lots of worldwide standards and drafts (i.e. for the standardization of powercords), chiefly provided by ISO.
Important standardization bodies are: