Wes Rishel said that if the Direct Project finished its work in a year, it would set a new land speed record. He may be right, but I have thoughts about what record we are talking about.
From 0 to completed specification? Nah, the Direct project missed that boat on that one. IHE PCC took down that record in 2005 in the newly created Patient Care Coordination Domain. That domain went from 0 to trial implementation specification (with a 30 day public comment period in the middle) from the beginning of July 2005 to October 2005, with testing by 14 implementors at the January 2006 connectathon. That's 4 months to an implementable specification, or 7 months to tested implementations, depending on how you want to count it. Those implementations went into production in the following year.
HL7 has done pretty well also. Several specifications have been created and published inside 6-8 months (mostly DSTUs, which require two implementors). Some of those also went into production fairly quickly.
But not as fast as the Direct project seems to be going, and that is a real change. The real record for the Direct Project is from project inception to announcement of commercial support (PDF). But I don't think the Direct project can take all the credit for that speed. In order for their to be commercial support for standards or interoperability specification, there must be a market for it. Meaningful use created a market need for provider to provider communication with more than $20B in incentives, and the Direct project met that need.
It is no surprise to me that the Direct project is viewed as a big success. It should be viewed that way, but it should also be viewed in the larger context as well. If the next project that is taken on in a "Direct-like" fashion doesn't have the same kind of incentives behind it, it may not succeed nearly as well. We need to remember that in these projects and "keep our eyes on the prize" as it were.
If we can do that, I believe we will succeed.