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Open Standards

Open Source is something different from Open Standards. We like to confuse the two. An Open Standard can be implemented in 100% proprietary software while Open Source software can implement proprietary standards (is that an Oxymoron? - prevaling practice might be a better word here). One example is Gnome Evolution implementing the proprietary Exchange wire protocols.
Hugo Roy, in an open letter to Steve Jobs sums up Open Standards for the busy reader:
An Open Standard refers to a format or protocol that is
  1. subject to full public assessment and use without constraints in a manner equally available to all parties;
  2. without any components or extensions that have dependencies on formats or protocols that do not meet the definition of an Open Standard themselves;
  3. free from legal or technical clauses that limit its utilisation by any party or in any business model;
  4. managed and further developed independently of any single vendor in a process open to the equal participation of competitors and third parties;
  5. available in multiple complete implementations by competing vendors, or as a complete implementation equally available to all parties.
Steve disagrees citing " An open standard is different from being royalty free or open source". While the later part is almost without discussion (some claim a standard can't be truely open if not at least one Open Source Implementation exists, thus the standard being like a class and the source being the object instance of the class), the former is hotly debated. In one camp the term " without constraints" is interpreted as " patent and royalty free" while the other camp ( including IETF, ISO, IEC, and ITU-T) wants to allow for " reasonable and non-discriminatory" patent licence fees ( RAND). The FSF would see RAND rather as a short form of RAN(D)som. We live in interesting times.

Posted by on 01 May 2010 | Comments (1) | categories: Software


  1. posted by Tony Austin on Monday 03 May 2010 AD:
    Howdy Stephan. Let me add a point or two based upon the only product with which I have direct, personal experience and control over.

    NotesTracker is the only product of mine for which I charge a license (others like SDMS. CAPTURE and Simple Signer are all freebies). A man's gotta make a living, so it's fair enough to expect payment for at least some things [like NotesTracker] is it not?

    The NotesTracker evaluation application samples all have their designs hidden -- the only way that I can protect the intellectual property built into the tool -- so in that form they're definitely not "open source" of course.

    But any customer who purchases a license for NotesTracker gets full access to all the code, which to me means "open source" in one way at least, surely -- even if not in the sense that this term is normally used.

    Now, there's no open standard for NotesTracker, only my very own "proprietary standard" for how it is architected. So is this not a valid example of what could be termed "proprietary open source" (which is sure to put the cat amongst the pigeons, eh)?

    Software surely doesn't have to be "free" to be "open source" does it (heated argument should ensue from this, too)? Emoticon wink.gif

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    BTW, Stephan:
    Would you mind making this text input area somewhat wider, and perhaps deeper too?