Open Standards & Open Source: Not the Same, But On the Same Team

Posted on March 25th, 2015

An ongoing dialog surrounding open source development practices has started which is integral to a broader discussion connected to open standards.

Image: Shutterstock, kentoh

The OpenStand Principles embrace openness, transparency, cooperation, and voluntary adoption in a manner that is very compatible with the open source community. As a key player in this community, the Linux Foundation’s missions states that “open collaboration powers everything.” This has initiated an ongoing dialog surrounding open source development practices that is integral to a broader discussion connected to open standards.

Glyn Moody of Computerworld’s Open Enterprise blog spoke with the Linux Foundation’s Executive Director, Jim Zemlin on this very topic. The ecosystem of the Linux Foundation, embraces collaborative innovation, which includes standards development. However, in this interview Zemlin asserts that open source is overwriting the need for open standards.  According to Zemlin:

“The largest form of collaboration in the tech industry for 20 years was at standards development organisations – IEEE, ISO, W3C, these things – where in order for companies to interoperate, which was a requirement in tech, they would create a specification, and everyone would implement that. The tech sector is moving on to a world where, in the Internet of things [for example], do you want to have a 500-page specification that you hand to a light bulb manufacturer, or do you want source code that you can hand to that manufacturer that enables interoperability? I think that’s a permanent fixture. People have figured out for a particular non-differentiating infrastructure, they want to work on that through open source, rather than creating a spec.

This is a major shift in the way that the technology world operates. Instead of trying to pin down in a specification how a new set of common standards will operate, leaving each company to implement those specifications as they see fit – perhaps with variable compatibility among them – we are moving to a world where the new standard is represented by open source code that both defines that standard, and does 99% of the work of implementing it.”

If he’s right, Zemlin’s statement either represents a major shift in the way that the technology world operates, or a re-definition of what standards of the future will become — or both.  We suspect this is only the beginning of the dialog.  How should open standards players embrace and accommodate open source development?  As Moody points out, is there a way for open source and open standards to work together instead of potentially working in conflict with each other?   If so, what should this look like?

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