UK Government Open Standards Consultation

Photo of text - Think Outside The Box
Think Outside The Box

Deadline 4th June 2012

Please help by following the link and responding to the consultation :

The Open Standards Consultation[1]

The History

  1. In 2011 the UK Government ran a consultation on Open Standards and developed a policy in favour or royalty-free Open Standards.
  2. After heavy lobbying by proprietary interests the consultation was run again and it would appear that the proprietaries may have the upper hand. Shenanigans, schemings and manoeuvrings may well abound.

If you agree with me please respond to the consultation on the link above and make the case to support UK businesses with an Open Standards policy.

Many have written about this issue, including [2,3,4,5,6,7,8]

My own case for Open Standards:

Its quite simple:

Open standards allow people to innovate around them. Everyone benefits because organisations and stakeholders can interoperate and build on them – for example diverse applications using the same data storage format.

Closed standards benefit only the organisations that own them. Historical Microsoft Word data formats for example. Closed standards constrain, open standards enable.

To me this mirrors a basic life process shown in the difference between instructing or telling someone something and having a conversation. The closed (often de-facto) standard is the owning organisation’s vision of what the community needs – that is what they want to sell. The open standard is what the community needs because if it isn’t it gets changed. Open standards support the growth of infrastructure between organisations. Closed standards only support the owning organisation. Closed standards are like instructing someone. Open standards are like having a two-way conversation.

Benefits of open standards abound:

  • Many diverse organisations can develop code that uses them
  • Better interoperability between organisations
  • Promotion of infrastructure development
  • Business cases that are not driven by monopolistic power structures
  • Standards that meet real community needs not just the needs of those the owner can sell to
  • Communities of affected stakeholders are more able to participate in the standards development.

Where a community is often excluded or marginalised, such as persons having accessibility requirements not well supported in ICT, this is extremely important because large monopolistic corporations often have no easy way to even know what those requirements are even less be able to respond to them. Their structures and business models simply cannot deal with that fine granularity. Open Standards are no way the end of that story but they are a critical step along the way. To respond to accessibility requirements we must LISTEN, not just sell.

Often given as argument against Open Standards is the recent trailblazing game-changing success of Apple, particularly as compared with the troubles of Google’s Android development in the marketplace. The argument given is that cohesion produces a tightly-controlled good product that people want. As I see it this is more about visionary integrated design and very smart control of supply chain processes than Open Standards. In fact Apple’s products depend on myriad Open Standards such as http, HTML 5, Unicode, many programming language standards, BSD Unix, IEEE networking standards such as 802.3 and 811.2 and a plethora of standards concerning electricity voltages and on and on. Without these Open Standards to build on Apple’s products could not exist.

So if we want growth of ICT, and I believe there are many ways ICT can improve our life quality, we need Open Standards.