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Archive for October 15th, 2012

“Standards are voluntarily adopted and success is determined by the market”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15 October 2012

Yesterday (Sunday 14 October) was World Standards Day. As described on Wikipedia “The aim of World Standards Day is to raise awareness among regulators, industry and consumers as to the importance of standardization to the global economy“. It is therefore timely to highlight Open Stand. As described on the Open Stand Web site:

On August 29th five leading global organizations jointly signed an agreement to affirm and adhere to a set of Principles in support of The Modern Paradigm for Standards; an open and collectively empowering model that will help radically improve the way people around the world develop new technologies and innovate for humanity.

The “Modern Paradigm for Standards”is shaped by adherence to five principles:

  1. 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.
  2. Broad consensus: Processes allow for all views to be considered and addressed, such that agreement can be found across a range of interests.
  3. 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.
  4. Balance: Standards activities are not exclusively dominated by any particular person, company or interest group.
  5. Openness: Standards processes are open to all interested and informed parties.

The “Modern Paradigm for Standards” itself is based on five key approaches:

  1. Cooperation
  2. Adherence to the principles listed above
  3. Collective empowerment
  4. Availability
  5. Voluntary Adoption

The Topsy tool provides a useful means of observing Twitter discussions about web resources. Looking at recent English-language tweets about the Web site we can see a useful summary:

5 organizations - #IETF#IEEE#W3C#IAB@Internet Society – issue joint statement on open Internet standards - http://t.co/cO2rQvGH

together with a summary of the aims of this initiative:

check out the uber standards org @openstand that will drive innovation globally through interoperability http://t.co/cKrkYnvr

and an acknowledgement that more work is needed if the goal of “driving innovation globally through interoperability” is to be realised:

OpenStand (http://t.co/2g50zvMc) is good politics; that it doesn’t go far enough just shows there’s still work to be done.

However it is the single sentence summary of what is meant by “Voluntary Adoption” which struck me as being of greatest interest:

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

In the past I think there has been a view that open standards exist independently of the market place with public sector organisations, in particular, being expected to distance themselves from the market economy in the development and procurement of IT systems. However this statement of a “modern paradigm for standards” makes it clear that standards bodies such as the W3C, IETF, IEEE, IAB and the Internet Society are explicit that the success of open standards is dependent of acceptance of the standards across the market place. Back in September 2008 I highlighted the importance of market place acceptance of open standards:

many W3C standards …  have clearly failed to have any significant impact in the market place – compare, for example, the success of Macromedia’s Flash (SWF) format with the niche role that W3C’s SMIL format has.

and 2 months later a post entitled Why Did SMIL and SVG Fail? generated a discussion about criteria for identifying failed standards. Perhaps, as was suggested in the comments on the post, SMIL and SVG merely have had a very slow growth to reach market acceptance. But I can’t help but feel that if SMIL and SVG are belatedly felt to be successful standards this will have been as a result of the decision by Apple not to support Flash on the iOS plaform for Apple’s mobile devices. This seems to provide a good example of the Open Stand’s principle that “Standards are voluntarily adopted and success is determined by the market“. We can now see parallels between the selection of third-party services to support institutional activities and the selection of open standards to support development activities. Interestingly such issues were discussed at the CETIS meeting on “Future of Interoperability Standards” held in Bolton in January 2010. I hope that the Opportunities and Risks Framework For Standards which I presented at the meeting can provide an approach for helping to identify the standards which can achieve success in the market place.

Twitter conversation from: [Topsy]

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