Open Standards: Do Open Standards’ implementations meet their specifications?

IT vendors are not asked to prove that their software products are meeting open standardsspecifications. Declarations of conformity to a file format standard is a self-certification process.

My speech on the session entitled “Tomorrow’s data availability depends upon today’s data format“ at the OMAT conference was on standards conformance, an issue too often not considered.

In the European Economic Area the CE mark is a mandatory conformity mark for certain product groups to indicate conformity with the essential health and safety requirements set out in European Directives. In short you need a CE mark to sell a plug or a toy, but you can sell software without any external test house which evaluates the product and its documentation. At the end of the day there is no organization that assess standards compliance, we can just rely on implementors’ statements of compliance.

Ken Krechmer over the last ten years spent time and efforts to define the meaning of Open Standards, and he was the first to clearly explain the different views of all standards’ stakeholders.

It is common to think of standardization as the process of standards creation, but this view excludes those who implement the standard (implementers) and those who use the implementations of the standard (users).

Krechmer identifying each constituency’s view gives us a complete description of Open Standards emerge, and a key to understand what is in our interests. I introduced the OMAT’s audience to the ten rights that enable open standards using the following visual presentation.

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I went through all criteria, stressing the importance of some of them, like the “Open Meeting” one, establishing that all stakeholders can participate. A right not addressed by many Standard Specification Organizations like ISO, OASIS and W3C, all having in place a pay-to-become-a-member policy.

“Open Documents”, the right to see any documents from a Standard Specification Organization included individual technical proposals and meeting reports, is a standardization right connected to Open Meeting. It come no surprise that the transparency of a meeting is related to the availability of all the documents from the meeting. Again, ISO and other organizations do not fulfill this right.

I stressed also the importance of “Open Change”, the right that gives the ability to prevent predatory practices through license terms that protect against subversion of the standard by embrace and extend tactics.

Last but not least “Open Use” identifies the value of conformance for implementers and users. While multiple implementers can gather together to check if their implementations work with each other (plug-fest), users do need a formal entity taking care of the conformance process. Apparently ETSI is a candidate, it is up to you to judge whether it is a good or a bad thing.

Note that only when all ten rights are supported will standards be really open to all.

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