Open Standards
Principles and Practice

An Open Standard is more than just a specification. The principles behind the standard, and the practice of offering and operating the standard, are what make the standard Open.

Principles

  1. Availability

    Open Standards are available for all to read and implement.
  2. Maximize End-User Choice

    Open Standards create a fair, competitive market for implementations of the standard. They do not lock the customer in to a particular vendor or group.
  3. No Royalty

    Open Standards are free for all to implement, with no royalty or fee. Certification of compliance by the standards organization may involve a fee.
  4. No Discrimination

    Open Standards and the organizations that administer them do not favor one implementor over another for any reason other than the technical standards compliance of a vendor's implementation. Certification organizations must provide a path for low and zero-cost implementations to be validated, but may also provide enhanced certification services.
  5. Extension or Subset

    Implementations of Open Standards may be extended, or offered in subset form. However, certification organizations may decline to certify subset implementations, and may place requirements upon extensions (see Predatory Practices).
  6. Predatory Practices

    Open Standards may employ license terms that protect against subversion of the standard by embrace-and-extend tactics. The licenses attached to the standard may require the publication of reference information for extensions, and a license for all others to create, distribute, and sell software that is compatible with the extensions. An Open Standard may not othewise prohibit extensions.

Practice

  1. Availability

    Open Standards are available for all to read and implement. Thus:
    1. The best practice is for the standards text and reference implementation to be available for free download via the Internet.
    2. Any software project should be able to afford a copy without undue hardship. The cost should not far exceed the cost of a college textbook.
    3. Licenses attached to the standards documentation must not restrict any party from implementing the standard using any form of software license.
    4. The best practice is for software reference platforms to be licensed in a way that is compatible with all forms of software licensing, both Free Software (Open Source) and proprietary. However, see Predatory Practices regarding license restrictions that may be appropriate for a software reference platform.
  2. Maximize End-User Choice

    Open Standards create a fair, competitive market for implementations of the standard. Thus:
    1. They must allow a wide range of implementations, by businesses, academia, and public projects.
    2. They must support a range of pricing from very expensive to zero-price.
  3. No Royalty

    Open Standards are free for all to implement, with no royalty or fee. Certification of compliance by the standards organization may have a fee. Thus:
    1. Patents embedded in standards must be licensed royalty-free, with non-discriminatory terms.
    2. Certification programs should include a low or zero cost self-certification, but may include higher-cost programs with enhanced branding.
  4. No Discrimination

    Open Standards and the organizations that administer them do not favor one implementor over another for any reason other than the technical standards compliance of a vendor's implementation. Certification organizations must provide a path for low and zero-cost implementations to be validated, but may also provide enhanced certification services. Thus:
    1. A standards organization that wishes to support itself through certification branding should establish a premium track and a low-cost or zero-cost track. Generally, the premium track will provide a certification lab outside of the vendor's facility to verify a vendor's implementation and enhanced branding: a certification mark that indicates a greater certainty of verification and financial support of the standard. The low or zero-cost track would provide self-certification by the vendor and baseline branding.
  5. Extension or Subset

    Implementations of Open Standards may be extended, or offered in subset form. However, certification organizations may decline to certify subset implementations, and may place requirements upon extensions (see Predatory Practices).
  6. Predatory Practices

    Open Standards may employ license terms that protect against subversion of the standard by embrace-and-extend tactics. The license may require the publication of reference information and an license to create and redistribute software compatible with the extensions. It may not prohibit the implementation of extensions.
    1. The standards organization may wish to apply an agreement similar to the Sun Industry Standards Source License to the standard documentation and its accompanying reference implementation. The Sun agreement requires publication of a reference implementation (not the actual commercial implementation) for any extensions to the standard. This makes it possible for a standards organization to actively preserve interoperability without stifling innovation.

Glossary

Embrace and Enhance
A predatory practice in which a predominant vendor creates an implementation of a standard with extensions that are incompatible with other systems practicing the standard. The other systems then are incompatible with the majority of systems, which are provided by the predominant vendor. The predominant vendor uses patents or copyright to restrain others from implementing systems that are compatible with the new extensions. This creates a monopoly lock on the standard. The user is forced to switch to the dominant vendor's implementation in order to be compatible with the majority of users.
Free Software
A paradigm in which the creators of computer software or other media convey rights to others to freely use, redistribute, and modify their work. This results in a broad public collaboration on such works. The licensing commonly used for Free Software complies with the Open Source Definition, and thus Free Software and Open Source are really two different faces of the same thing. However, promotion of Free Software emphasizes the civil liberties of software users and developers, while promotion of Open Source stresses its applicability to business.
Open Source
Similar to Free Software, but promoted to business, and with less emphasis on the civil liberties of the computer user or developer. The Open Source Definition is at http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition_plain.html . A commentary on the document by its creator is at http://perens.com/OSD.html .

Open Standards: Principles and Practice was created by Bruce Perens, who also created The Open Source Definition and The Debian Social Contract.

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