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Open Source/Open Standards

Checking Back in on OpenStand

Open Source/Open Standards

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

In case you haven’t thought about it lately, it’s a fair bet that everything in your life today depends to some greater or lesser extent (usually the former) on the Internet and the Web.  And in case you’ve never thought about it at all, what makes those vital services possible has less to do with servers and fiber optics than it does with protocols and other standards.  Take that reality a step further, and it becomes obvious that that the processes by which these essential enablers of our interconnected world are created is pretty important.

Further to that thought, a few weeks ago I was intrigued to read that five of the standard setting organizations (SSO) most responsible for the Internet and the Web had united to launch a new initiative called OpenStand. Intrigued, because while the press release answered the “who, what, when and where” aspects of the story, the “why” was a bit less fully fleshed out. I did some investigating on that front, and wrote about what I learned here.  

Standards and the Status Quo

Open Source/Open Standards

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

In an otherwise useful essay on the convergence of open standards and open source software development efforts, Adobe's Dave McAllister makes a statement that's worth challenging, since it reiterates a common misconception. In the opening of his essay, Dave states:

Standards are designed to stabilize a technology or interface, package or connection. Open source is driven by continual development. Standards tend to update and publish on a schedule measured in years, while open source updates and publishes in sometimes days. Standards drive the status quo. Open source  (often) drives innovation.

The first part of that statement is crucially accurate: the value of a standard derives entirely from the industry agreeing to freeze some element of technology or interface.  But the later statement that "Standards drive the status quo" at the expense of innovation is misleading at best.

Openness is Alive and Well (and Living in Europe)

Open Source/Open Standards

 Have you discovered The Alexandria Project? 

Last week I took something of a trip back through time. The transition began somewhere over the dark Atlantic, on my way to Brussels via Heathrow, when the person sitting next to me struck up a conversation. Improbably, I found myself discussing ODF – the OpenDocument Format – with a former Sun engineer who had followed the ODF–OOXML contest with great interest back in 2005 - 2007. I was sorry to tell him, and he was sorry to hear, that things had not gone so well in the years that followed, and that many of the bright hopes of those that had supported ODF remained to be realized.   The conversation set me thinking about how much of the energy that had surrounded open standards back then has faded from view in the U.S.    

Interoperability, Standards and Market Power

Open Source/Open Standards

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

  Flag of Europe, Courtesy WikipediaYesterday the European Commission issued a brief press release (reproduced below) announcing that it has opened a formal investigation:   ...to assess whether The MathWorks Inc., a U.S.-based software company, has distorted competition in the market for the design of commercial control systems by preventing competitors from achieving interoperability with its products.   The press release states that the investigation was triggered by a complaint, but does not disclose which company alleged that it had been denied a license for reverse-engineering purposes.   This latest investigation arises in the context of a broad array of litigation, investigations and policy announcements in the EU focusing on the importance of standards in achieving interoperability, principally involving mobile device manufacturers and technology owners, such as Motorola Mobility and Samsung. It also highlights the different strategies that dominant companies may adopt in relation to market demands for interoperability, and also the divergent positions that U.S. and EU regulators sometimes take in response.  

 

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About FRAND (But didn’t know who to ask)

Open Source/Open Standards

Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

 

The acronym “FRAND” is very much in the news today, and with good reason. The battle to control, or at least share in the bounty, of the mobile marketplace has motivated technology leviathans like Google, Samsung, Microsoft and Apple to bring every tool and weapon to the fore in order to avoid being left in the dust. So intense is the competition that not only standards, but the finer details relating to the pledging of patents to facilitate the implementation of standards, have become the subject of headlines in the technology press.   The purpose of this blog post is not to report on the skirmishing that is still ongoing, but to peel off and explain the multiple layers of nuance and tactical opportunity that underlie the seemingly simple concept of “FRAND.” How many layers? Let’s just say that you may lose count before we cover everything you need to know to make sense out of what is really going on behind the scenes.

W3C Launches New “Agile” Standards Development Platform

Open Source/Open Standards

By anyone’s measure, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been one of the most important and influential standards development organizations of the information technology age. Without its efforts, the Web would literally not exist as we know it. But times change, and with change, even venerable – indeed, especially venerable – institutions must change with it. 

Yesterday the W3C announced the launch of a light-weight way for non-members as well as members to initiate new development projects. It allows participants to take advantage of streamlined, off the shelf tools and policies to support their efforts, as well as the intellectual support of the W3C staff and member community. Where appropriate, a project can graduate to the formal W3C development process as well. The new programs are the result of extensive discussion and consensus building that began in two ad hoc working groups in which I was pleased to be invited to participate.  

Has the Battle for the Digital Car Been Won?

Open Source/Open Standards

 Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?

This week a new consortium was launched that may signal who will finally own the last great, unclaimed consumer computing platform – the automobile. The new organization is the Car Connectivity Consortium, and the winner is . . . well, we’ll come back to that a little later. Suffice it to say for now that the fifteen year battle to control the digital future of the automobile could be at an end, and that its resolution may tell us something about the future of the digital desktop as well.  

Do Royalty-Free Standards “Stifle Innovation?”

Open Source/Open Standards

Photo Courtesy of FUDsec.comAs I noted last week, the British government recently came out strongly in favor of royalty free standards and active consideration of open source software in public procurement. As expected, this decision was greeted with less than universal enthusiasm. One trade group that predictably reacted negatively was the Business Software Alliance, an association that supports the robust preservation of rights in patents. The BSA had previously lobbied actively (and successfully) to delete a similar position from the new version of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF). 

According to a story posted at ZDNet.co.uk this Tuesday, the BSA released objections to the new British government policy, stating in part:   BSA strongly supports open standards as a driver of interoperability; but we are deeply concerned that by seeking to define openness in a way which requires industry to give up its intellectual property, the UK government's new policy will inadvertently reduce choice, hinder innovation and increase the costs of e-government.   

U.K. Comes out for Royalty-Free Standards for Government Procurement

Open Source/Open Standards

The U.K. has become the latest country to conclude that for information and communications technology (ICT) procurement purposes, “open standards” means “royalty free standards.”  While apparently falling short of a legal requirement, a Cabinet Office Procurement Policy Note recommends that all departments, agencies, non-departmental bodies and “any other bodies for which they are responsible” should specify open standards in their procurement activities, unless there are “clear business reasons why this is inappropriate.”

Best Practices in Open Source Foundation Governance – Part I

Open Source/Open Standards

For some time now, I have been meaning to write a series of blog posts setting forth my views on best practices in forming and governing open source foundations.  Why?  Because despite the increasing reliance of just about every part of our modern world (government, finance, defense, and so on) on open source software (OSS) and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), there has been very little written on the subject.

That means that neither a community nor a corporation has much to refer to in creating the kind of governance structure most likely to ensure that the intentions of the founders are carried out, that the rights of contributors are respected, and that the code upon which end users will rely is properly maintained into the future.

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