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Leading Standards Organizations Assert Principles of a "New Global Standards Paradigm"

Standards and Society

 

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The big news in the standards arena yesterday was a joint announcement by five of the standards setting organizations (SSOs) that have been most essential to the creation of the Internet and the Web: IEEE, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and Internet Society (the last three being closely affiliated entities).
 
Joint announcements by SSOs are rare, and the subject matter of this announcement was more so: each organization was joining in the endorsement of a set of five principles that they assert support a “new paradigm for standards” development. 
 

Most of the principles will likely strike those not familiar with standards development as being rather self-evident (one commentator from the utility industry who spoke with officers of the SSOs wrote, “frankly, I found their logic unassailable”). But to those that have engaged in debates for many years over what should qualify as an “open standard,” the announcement, and the further information to be found at the Web site established to support the initiative, the message was a bit cryptic.

My own first reaction was to wonder what had inspired the announcement, and what specifically the five SSOs hoped to achieve? I was able to connect with some of the people that were instrumental in constructing the initiative to learn the answers to those questions, and some of the back story leading to the launch.
 
Before I go there, however, let me provide an overview of the information made available by the five organizations.
 
First, there is a brief joint statement of purpose, reproduced in full at the end of this blog entry. It begins by pointing, quite justifiably, to the creation of the Internet and the Web as hugely beneficial and successful results of standards development. It then asserts that this result could only have been achieved as a result of “key characteristics of a modern global standards paradigm.” It goes on to read as follows:
 
We embrace a modern paradigm for standards where the economics of global markets, fueled by technological advancements, drive global deployment of standards regardless of their formal status.
 
In this paradigm standards support interoperability, foster global competition, are developed through an open participatory process, and are voluntarily adopted globally. These voluntary standards serve as building blocks for products and services targeted at meeting the needs of the market and consumer, thereby driving innovation. Innovation in turn contributes to the creation of new markets and the growth and expansion of existing markets.
 
“Paradigm,” of course, is an oft used (and almost as often, misused) term. Properly employed, it should mean that a new construct, methodology or business model incorporates real differences from its predecessors, that these differences have meaningful effects, and that these effects are important. The first question to be answered then becomes how successfully the five SSOs have been able to substantiate their claim? 
 
Let’s start with the principles themselves, which are phrased in the press release as follows:
  • cooperation among standards organizations;
  • adherence to due process, broad consensus, transparency, balance and openness in standards development;
  • commitment to technical merit, interoperability, competition, innovation and benefit to humanity;
  • availability of standards to all, and
  • voluntary adoption.
At first I was puzzled by this list, because in most respects it incorporates the same principles that virtually every definition of best practices in standards development would include. More to the point, these principles are very similar to those that the traditional standards development infrastructure, comprising national and global SSOs, already endorse. The only exception is the mention of benefiting humanity in the third bullet, which is wholly novel. 
 
However, if one goes to the OpenStand Web site (strangely, the press release does not include a link to that site, or to the sites of two of the parties to the announcement, either), there is a Principles page that provides additional text, and at this level of detail the concepts being endorsed start to become more interesting, and the differences between traditional definitions of open standards and OpenStand’s definition become more clear. 
 
The elaboration of the first principle is very brief. “Cooperation” is summarized as follows:
 
Respectful cooperation between standards organizations, whereby each respects the autonomy, integrity, processes, and intellectual property rules of the others.
 
The decision to include, and begin, with this principle is rather interesting, because SSOs, like most other entities, can be territorial. At the same time, as I’ve written many times before, the greatest standards challenges today require an integrated effort across many technology sectors. Since most SSOs (and particularly those formed in the United States) have historically focused on the standards requirements of a single industry, or relating to a single (sometimes very narrow) technical area - or even on a single product feature - effective collaboration is essential if cross-sectoral standards challenges are to be successfully met.
 
Examples of such ambitious and essential efforts include designing a workable SmartGrid, achieving and maintaining network security, enabling national systems of electronic health records, and much more. The SSOs behind the OpenStand are therefore very right to emphasize that a new commitment to collaboration is essential if the standards-related demands of today are to be successfully addressed. They are also correct in holding the Internet and the Web up as examples of the great benefits that can be achieved from such collaboration.
 
In most respects, the criteria listed under the second Principle (Adherence to Principles) are traditional rather than novel. For the most part, they recapitulate the process values and steps of SSOs that are part of the historical standards development infrastructure, such as requirements for due process, broad consensus, and transparency. Unfortunately, the criteria become more granular, to the point where they would exclude consortia that may take a less regimented and streamlined approach but still quite successfully achieve overall goals of transparency, due process, and so on.
 
For example, the due process bullet includes as an element, “opportunities exist to appeal decisions.” By their nature, appeals of decisions can result in delay, and may also give openings to game playing. But it is also possible to achieve the same result through (for example) working conscientiously towards consensus in real time, and including a process review at completion. Similarly, consortia are usually based on “pay to play” business models, and do not always offer all of the opportunities for public comment that traditional SSOs do. At the same time, not all traditional SSOs would meet all of the criteria listed as well, and some consortia are in fact much more transparent than traditional SSOs (the IETF and OASIS, for example).
 
The third Principle (Collective Empowerment) includes perhaps the most interesting criteria, not because they are new, but because they are being emphasized over other criteria that could have been mentioned (the last being the notable exception). Collective Empowerment is described as follows:
 
Commitment by affirming standards organizations and their participants to collective empowerment by striving for standards that:
 
·         are chosen and defined based on technical merit, as judged by the contributed expertise of each participant;
·         provide global interoperability, scalability, stability, and resiliency;
·         enable global competition;
·         serve as building blocks for further innovation; and
·         contribute to the creation of global communities, benefiting humanity. 
 

The last bullet aside, one would assume that each of the other criteria would be assumed in the development of standards (what SSO would want to admit that decisions were not made based on “technical merit?”) That said, some of these attributes can often be neglected (e.g., a commitment to “scalability, stability, and resiliency”). It is also worth noting that while some of these criteria are indeed essential to developing standards for networked systems, they would not be as important outside of information and communications technology (ICT).

The last bullet, of course, is the stand out attribute of the entire set of principles. And while the ability to benefit humanity is not unique to ICT, the ability to create global communities largely is. The inclusion of this criterion is particularly relevant when it is remembered that most standards development is driven by industry, and that industry tends, at best, to be values-neutral (some would substitute 'amoral' for values-neutral, and others might use a less tactful term). The five SSOs behind the announcement represent some of the very few SSOs, both traditional as well as consortia, that have incorporated such a concern into their missions, and to a varying degree, each has acted on that conviction.

In what will prove in some quarters to be the most controversial Principle and in others the least, “Availability” reads in its entirety as follows: 

Standards specifications are made accessible to all for implementation and deployment. Affirming standards organizations have defined procedures to develop specifications that can be implemented under fair terms. Given market diversity, fair terms may vary from royalty-free to fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND).

The last sentence will please all traditionalists, in that it restates the view expressed most frequently by commercial interests. At the same time, it will disappoint open source advocates, as well as supporters of openness of all types in Europe and elsewhere. These advocates believe that at least some essential standards (e.g., those used in government procurement and in citizen-facing government portals) should be available without payment. Debates on this topic have raged since at least 2004 in Europe in connection with evolving government policies, and those debates continue today.
 
Free standards advocates are likely to be particularly disappointed that a group of SSOs that use the Internet and the Web as examples of a new global standards paradigm in action would not come out in favor of free standards, since much of the success of these same networks has so often been attributed to the fact that key participants decided not to charge for the infringement of their patents by implementers of key standards. In light of the insistence of the W3C to discourage economic encumbrances on its standards to the greatest extent possible, and the marathon effort it took to craft and adopt a Patent Policy true to that goal, it is likely that this OpenStand founder will receive the greatest criticism for agreeing to endorse Principle number 4.
 
The background for this position is not difficult to guess: the IEEE has over 500 active working groups, most of which are in technical and industrial areas that are accepting of standards that require payment of license fees. It would not have been likely that IEEE (or, for that matter, the other SSOs) would have agreed to a statement limited to royalty free standards, and I have been able to confirm that this was, in fact, the case.
 
Some will say that given such a split, it would have been better to say nothing at all than to include the statement made with respect to IPR. Others will say that this is a battle to be fought elsewhere, and that the W3C can be excused for not being intransigent on this point.
 
The last Principle, “Voluntary Adoption,” is deceptively brief, reading in full as follows: 
 
Standards are voluntarily adopted and success is determined by the market.
 
This last Principle, I subsequently learned, starts to hint at one of the main reasons for issuing the Principles. Many governments have traditionally shown a preference for, or indeed restricted themselves entirely to, including standards in procurement decisions that were created through the traditional, global standards infrastructure. For example, until recently European governments have engaged in a sort of NeverNever Land exercise of refusing to alter their procurement rules even as they make wholesale use (like everyone else) of technology that is rife with standards developed by consortia. Indeed, most of the Internet and Web is enabled by standards developed through these organizations.
 
Europe is currently reevaluating this position, and in the United States, the government is also deciding whether to amend, or reinterpret, Office of Management and Budget Circular A-119, which includes criteria for the utilization of private sector standards. Moreover, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has for many years tried to insert itself into control of standards enabling the Internet and Web, and those efforts are continuing.  Finally, increased attention is being paid to the open standards criteria laid out under the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. Under that Act, signatory countries are barred from using “home grown” standards to bar, or impede, entry of products conforming to globally adopted standards.  Proponents of standards developed by traditional standards organizations frequently assert that consortium-developed standards should not be regarded as meeting this threshold.
 
I’ve confirmed that one motivation behind the release of the Principles at this time is to publicize the view that “non-traditional” SSOs such as the founders are not only capable of creating world-class standards that can result in vast benefits to humanity, but that the processes that they employ are the equal of, and perhaps superior to, those of their more traditional peer organizations. I’ve also confirmed that it’s no coincidence that the Principles map to (and in some respects go beyond) those that the traditional standards organizations espouse, and which the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade require. 
 
In this light, the inclusion of IEEE in the mix might seem incongruous, since it is an ANSI accredited standards developer. But such a categorization would sell IEEE short, as it has a global membership with hundreds of thousands of individual members, hundreds of corporate, academic and government members, and a library of standards larger and more influential than those of all but a surprisingly small number of nations. Moreover, adoption of its standards, like those of consortia, is immediate, occurring before those standards are adopted as American National Standards, or by ISO/IEC JTC 1. Indeed, in the case of IEEE's wildly successful wireless standards, many companies jump the gun, and begin releasing products built to a new version of a standard before that version  has even been adopted within IEEE.
 
With this background in mind, a statement from the very short, three paragraph Joint Statement already quoted above takes on a clearer meaning (emphasis added):
 
We embrace a modern paradigm for standards where the economics of global markets, fueled by technological advancements, drive global deployment of standards regardless of their formal status.
 
My understanding is that other motivations for the initiative included an effort to set the five organizations apart from more proprietary consortia, and to set the bar for other organizations to be measured by. My own proposal to a similar purpose can be found in an article I wrote in the fall 2007, which you can find here (my related editorial is here).
 
A review of the OpenStand site reviews other details of note, such as a call for organizations to endorse the Principles, a list of a few organizations (as of yesterday, they were mostly affiliated to some extent with one or more of the five SSOs) that have already done so, a request for individuals to join in expressing support (and another growing list), and “site badges” that can be downloaded to indicate support, one of which you can see above.
 
My final impression after a detailed review can be summarized as follows:
 
  • The Principles. I think that in the main they are laudable and sound. A few are too granular, requiring specific mechanisms that I think can be replaced with others while achieving similar goals in a more streamlined fashion. This will made it unnecessarily and needlessly hard for some consortia to endorse the Principles. And it is unfortunate that a more appropriate statement on IPR was not agreed upon which recognized not only that different sectors find different IPR rules appropriate, but also that in some areas – and particularly where “humanity” has a stake – only royalty free standards might be appropriate.  
  • The messaging could have been better. It’s easier to understand what something is if it states what it isn’t. In this case, it’s necessary to take a deep dive and know some of the back story to understand in what ways what is being proposed is really all that different from what are already commonly thought of as best practices. While I eventually “got it,” it would have been beneficial to the initiative if some of the messaging had been more straightforward.  
  • The execution could have been better. The timing for the announcement was surprisingly bad (two days before the Labor Day weekend in the U.S., and in the summer doldrums in Europe). Apparently, an early August launch was originally intended, and the date continued to slip. Other slips include a very short white paper featured at the Web site that has obvious errors in it, the absence of a link in the press release to the OpenStand Web site, and the fact that few endorsers were recruited before launch. I was able to find only a single article on line that indicated any journalists had been pre-briefed on the launch so that they could insightfully cover it (I did find about a dozen that were based on the press release), but I have since learned that press briefings did in fact occur. Presumably some of these journalists may be delaying their coverage until after the holiday weekend. 
It will be interesting to see how the initiative fares in the weeks ahead. Hopefully this will be the beginning of a dialogue involving a wider audience, and perhaps as a result of that dialogue the Principles will continue to improve and evolve.
 
Let’s hope that that’s the case, because the definition of “open standards” is indeed important. And the continuing rapid development of world class, universally available standards becomes more essential to almost every aspect of society by the day.
 

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 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
Joint Statement
 
Over the past several decades, the global economy has realized a huge bounty due to the Internet and the World Wide Web. These could not have been possible without the innovations and standardization of many underlying technologies. This standardization occurred with great speed and effectiveness only because of key characteristics of a modern global standards paradigm. The affirmation below characterizes the principles that have led to this success as a means to ensure acceptance of standards activities that adhere to the principles.
________________________________________________
 
We embrace a modern paradigm for standards where the economics of global markets, fueled by technological advancements, drive global deployment of standards regardless of their formal status.
In this paradigm standards support interoperability, foster global competition, are developed through an open participatory process, and are voluntarily adopted globally. These voluntary standards serve as building blocks for products and services targeted at meeting the needs of the market and consumer, thereby driving innovation. Innovation in turn contributes to the creation of new markets and the growth and expansion of existing markets.
 
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
Principles
 
The Modern Paradigm for Standards is shaped by adherence to the following five principles: 

1. Cooperation 
 
Respectful cooperation between standards organizations, whereby each respects the autonomy, integrity, processes, and intellectual property rules of the others. 

2. Adherence to Principles 
 
Adherence to the five fundamental principles of standards development:
  • Due process. Decisions are made with equity and fairness among participants. No one party dominates or guides standards development. Standards processes are transparent and opportunities exist to appeal decisions. Processes for periodic standards review and updating are well defined.
  • Broad consensus. Processes allow for all views to be considered and addressed, such that agreement can be found across a range of interests.
  • Transparency. Standards organizations provide advance public notice of proposed standards development activities, the scope of work to be undertaken, and conditions for participation. Easily accessible records of decisions and the materials used in reaching those decisions are provided. Public comment periods are provided before final standards approval and adoption.
  • Balance. Standards activities are not exclusively dominated by any particular person, company or interest group.
  • Openness. Standards processes are open to all interested and informed parties. 

3. Collective Empowerment 
 
Commitment by affirming standards organizations and their participants to collective empowerment by striving for standards that:
  • are chosen and defined based on technical merit, as judged by the contributed expertise of each participant;
  • provide global interoperability, scalability, stability, and resiliency;
  • enable global competition;
  • serve as building blocks for further innovation; and
  • contribute to the creation of global communities, benefiting humanity.
4. Availability

Standards specifications are made accessible to all for implementation and deployment. Affirming standards organizations have defined procedures to develop specifications that can be implemented under fair terms. Given market diversity, fair terms may vary from royalty-free to fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms (FRAND).

 

 

5. Voluntary Adoption

Standards are voluntarily adopted and success is determined by the market.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

Press Release
 
August 29, 2012 12:01 AM Eastern Daylight Time 
 
Leading Global Standards Organizations Endorse ‘OpenStand’ Principles that Drive Innovation and Borderless Commerce

 IEEE, IAB, IETF, Internet Society and W3C Invite Other Standards Organizations, Governments and Companies to Support Modern Paradigm for Global, Open Standards

 

 
PISCATAWAY, N.J. & WASHINGTON & GENEVA--(BUSINESS WIRE)--http://www.w3.org/Five leading global organizations—IEEE, Internet Architecture Board (IAB), Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Internet Society and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)—today announced that they have signed a statement affirming the importance of a jointly developed set of principles establishing a modern paradigm for global, open standards. The shared “OpenStand” principles—based on the effective and efficient standardization processes that have made the Internet and Web the premiere platforms for innovation and borderless commerce—are proven in their ability to foster competition and cooperation, support innovation and interoperability and drive market success.
 
“Increasing globalization of markets, the rapid advancement of technology and intensifying time-to-market demands have forced industry to seek more efficient ways to define the global standards that help expand global markets. The OpenStand principles foster the more efficient international standardization paradigm that the world needs.”
 
IEEE, IAB, IETF, Internet Society and W3C invite other standards organizations, governments, corporations and technology innovators globally to endorse the principles, which are available at open-stand.org.
 
The OpenStand principles strive to encapsulate that successful standardization model and make it extendable across the contemporary, global economy’s gamut of technology spaces and markets. The principles comprise a modern paradigm in which the economics of global markets—fueled by technological innovation—drive global deployment of standards, regardless of their formal status within traditional bodies of national representation. The OpenStand principles demand:
  • cooperation among standards organizations;
  • adherence to due process, broad consensus, transparency, balance and openness in standards development;
  • commitment to technical merit, interoperability, competition, innovation and benefit to humanity;
  • availability of standards to all, and
  • voluntary adoption.
“New dynamics and pressures on global industry have driven changes in the ways that standards are developed and adopted around the world,” said Steve Mills, president of the IEEE Standards Association. “Increasing globalization of markets, the rapid advancement of technology and intensifying time-to-market demands have forced industry to seek more efficient ways to define the global standards that help expand global markets. The OpenStand principles foster the more efficient international standardization paradigm that the world needs.”
 
Added Leslie Daigle, chief Internet technology officer with the Internet Society: “International standards development for borderless economics is not ad hoc; rather, it has a paradigm—one that has demonstrated agility and is driven by technical merit. The OpenStand principles convey the power of bottom-up collaboration in harnessing global creativity and expertise to the standards of any technology space that will underpin the modern economy moving forward.”
 
Standards developed and adopted via the OpenStand principles include IEEE standards for the Internet’s physical connectivity, IETF standards for end-to-end global Internet interoperability and the W3C standards for the World Wide Web.
 
“The Internet and World Wide Web have fueled an economic and social transformation, touching billions of lives. Efficient standardization of so many technologies has been key to the success of the global Internet,” said Russ Housley, IETF chair. “These global standards were developed with a focus toward technical excellence and deployed through collaboration of many participants from all around the world. The results have literally changed the world, surpassing anything that has ever been achieved through any other standards-development model.”
 
Globally adopted design-automation standards, which have paved the way for a giant leap forward in industry’s ability to define complex electronic solutions, provide another example of standards developed in the spirit of the OpenStand principles. Another technology space that figures to demand such standards over the next decades is the global smart-grid effort, which seeks to augment regional facilities for electricity generation, distribution, delivery and consumption with a two-way, end-to-end network for communications and control.
 
“Think about all that the Internet and Web have enabled over the past 30 years, completely transforming society, government and commerce,” said W3C chief executive officer Jeff Jaffe. “It is remarkable that a small number of organizations following a small number of principles have had such a huge impact on humanity, innovation and competition in global markets.”
 
Bernard Aboba, chair of the IAB: “The Internet has been built on specifications adopted voluntarily across the globe. By valuing running code, interoperability and deployment above formal status, the Internet has democratized the development of standards, enabling specifications originally developed outside of standards organizations to gain recognition based on their technical merit and adoption, contributing to the creation of global communities benefiting humanity. We now invite standards organizations, as well as governments, companies and individuals to join us at open-stand.org in order to affirm the principles that have nurtured the Internet and underpin many other important standards—and will continue to do so.”
 
About IEEE
 
IEEE, a large, global technical professional organization is dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. Through its highly cited publications, conferences, technology standards, and professional and educational activities, IEEE is the trusted voice on a wide variety of areas ranging from aerospace systems, computers and telecommunications to biomedical engineering, electric power and consumer electronics. Learn more at http://www.ieee.org.
 
About the Internet Architecture Board (IAB)
 
The IAB is chartered both as a committee of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and as an advisory body of the Internet Society (ISOC). Its responsibilities include architectural oversight of IETF activities, Internet Standards Process oversight and appeal, and the appointment of the RFC Editor. The IAB is also responsible for the management of the IETF protocol parameter registries.
 
About the Internet Engineering Task Force
 
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is a large open international community of network designers, operators, vendors, and researchers concerned with the evolution of the Internet architecture and the smooth operation of the Internet. It is open to any interested individual. The IETF is an organised activity of the Internet Society.
 
About the Internet Society
 
The Internet Society is the trusted independent source for Internet information and thought leadership from around the world. With its principled vision and substantial technological foundation, the Internet Society promotes open dialogue on Internet policy, technology, and future development among users, companies, governments, and other organizations. Working with its members and Chapters around the world, the Internet Society enables the continued evolution and growth of the Internet for everyone. For more information, visit www.internetsociety.org.
 
About the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
 
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international consortium where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. W3C primarily pursues its mission through the creation of Web standards and guidelines designed to ensure long-term growth for the Web. Over 375 organizations are Members of the Consortium. W3C is jointly run by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT CSAIL) in the USA, the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) headquartered in France and Keio University in Japan, and has additional Offices worldwide. For more information see http://www.w3.org/.
 
Contacts 
 
For IEEE Standards Association
Shuang Yu, +1-732-981-3424
shuang.yu@ieee.org
or
For W3C
Marilyn Siderwicz, +1-617-258-5263
msiderwicz@w3.org
or
For IAB, IETF and Internet Society
Wende Cover, +1-703-439-2773
cover@isoc.org
 

 

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