Ten challenges and priorities for open standards in 2008

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Over the next couple of weeks I plan to publish several entries on “challenges and priorities in 2008” on a range of topics, some related to work areas of interest, some related to personal ones. I’m kicking this off today with standards.

In 2008, I think that we collectively should …

  1. Educate more people about what open standards really are and how to distinguish them from standards that are “open” in name and marketing alone.
  2. Have more patent holders issue non-assertion pledges for open standards similar to what IBM did last July.
  3. Consolidate intellectual property and standards organization membership rules into a handful of models, and then have some easy process like that employed by the Creative Commons to help choose one.
  4. Evolve open standards intellectual property licenses and development processes to be more friendly to free and open source. In the same way, increase the involvement of free and open source developers in open standards development.
  5. Drive further international government adoption of “global standards” such as those produced by the W3C and OASIS. Help governments large and small to understand the importance of global standards in relationship to current policies around formal “international standards.”
  6. Help more governments adopt open standards policies that emphasize high quality technical work developed by a broad community of stakeholders in a democratic and transparent way, and deprecate de facto standards that reflect single vendor product use.
  7. Globalize use of common industry-specific open standards. If the world is indeed flat, then we need all players in particular industries using the same standards as much as possible.
  8. Increase the use of SOA, web services, data format, and business process standards as part of a common framework that should be used by all industries. If we can eliminate redundant or unnecessarily unique low level standards across different industries, we can decrease development costs and delays, and increase information fidelity and innovation opportunities.
  9. Complete the rejection of Microsoft’s OOXML as a JTC1 (ISO/IEC) proposed standard as a huge, flawed, unneeded, and redundant document format specification that seeks to use the international standards process to perpetuate a single company’s product marketshare.
  10. Learn important lessons from the OOXML experience, and improve national standards body and international standards organization processes. Here the motto could be the title of the song by The Who “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Next Time: “Ten challenges and priorities for free and open source in 2008”


  1. Just figured I’d note, I’m looking forward to another year of your blog. I really enjoy your thoughts on open standards. I post a lot of links to your blog on my site.

  2. Fair enough, Bob, but expecting the “IT Industry” to do that is like expecting the American populace to elect a joint Republican-Democrat president. Some forces want it to go one way, some want it to go the other way, and one is going to win at the expense of the other.

    Sharing isn’t an option, and the loser will lick their wounds only to try again in 4 years’ time.

    So what do we do, to bias things towards rejection of OOXML at ISO ? If this was Presidential stuff, then IBMers would be ordered to raid the stationery cabinets for blank CDs, burn copies of Lotus Symphony http://symphony.lotus.com/ , and drop them in neighbors’ mailboxes like so much campaign material. Provided at no charge for your home, school or business, like it says on the web site. Might not work, but at least it would be our best shot.

    Come to think of it, that’s roughly what’s likely to happen at Lotusphere http://www-306.ibm.com/software/lotus/events/symphony-developer-day.html later on this month.

    Would ATT do it with cell-phone handsets if they could ? Who would win, and who would lose ? Would it be a legitimate marketing investment, and would the competitors complain ?

  3. Well, sharing is possible through #3 and #4 as well dealing with co-opetition and competition issues.

    As for #2, I think Sun’s patent covenant language for open standard is the best model though this should become a requirement for contribution for any open standard.

  4. From the BBC, “And the government has appointed the chief executive of IBM UK to head up a committee to design a programme to help graduates with science and maths degrees to go into teaching as a second career.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7171442.stm

    Does this give you some leverage ?

  5. I do not have any leverage of any kind in that.

  6. Well, I wonder if Bob might discuss with Larry Hirst (the CEO of IBM UK) what he sees the problem to be, and whether Larry might discuss it with the others on this Government-run committee.

    For myself, I think ‘innovation markets’ are in danger of seizing up, in the way that ‘credit markets’ have seized up over the last 6 months or so; and that it’s somehow related to the Internet.

    There’s a tension between the way Apple want to run a business distributing commercial music on the Internet (ITunes), and the way that scientists and engineers want to use the Internet e.g. http://www.lofar.org/ for non-commercial sharing; and then the question of how you get the fruits of science into the next generation of commercial products.

    Can you keep the commercial lawyers (the copyright, patent, and antitrust ones) away from the scientists ? Allow the Einsteins of this world to build on the Newtons, without suffering at the courts of the judges of equity ?

    See, I didn’t even mention the M-business; the one that sells all those XBoxes. It’s not just them.

  7. Taking the Einsteins and Newtons further, the problem is that Newtons is hoarding thus preventing Einsteins to build on the Newtons and Newtons not being interested in co-opetition.

    Newtons and Einsteins need to create a continous cycle.

  8. IBM can help in some small ways; some I know of are

    OpenAFS http://www.openafs.org/
    OpenDX http://www.opendx.org/
    Websphere CE http://www-306.ibm.com/software/webservers/appserv/community/
    Lotus Symphony http://symphony.lotus.com/
    DeveloperWorks SEK http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/offers/sek/

    but getting Java to work on a cellphone is a question of “Whose Java”, “Whose Phone”, and “Who are you proposing to distribute it to”. An enlightened business plan would of course build it in to the airtime usage service charge, and allow a blossoming of diverse usage patterns.

    Maybe someday.

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