Should Open Standards be Open Source?


Frank Yue (F5) just said Open Standards do not have to be Open Source.

Why is this a bad idea?

Open Standards that are not Open Source remove the voting power from individuals and smaller players. While discussion in “open” standards is open to the public, the final decisions are done behind closed doors by companies who had the required funds to participate as official member.

For smaller companies taking part in standardization is extremely resource intensive. It’s a highly political activity, takes up a lot of time and membership costs real money. It is unlikely that small tech firms (who let’s face it are driving actual disruption) can financially afford to take part in meaningful outcomes.

Especially with future-tech such as the Internet of Thing (IoT), where standardization is in its early stages, different standardization bodies are competing for similar/same standards. Only big players can afford to put several individuals into x different workgroups in y different standardization bodies as full members.

And regardless of how innovative big established companies think they are, they never agree to having standards established that might threaten (disrupt) their core products.

Why rethink tech standardization

Taking IoT as an example there is massive momentum for the blockchain to decentralize and really disrupt the existing client-server (cloud) model and give individuals power over their data.  But which of the big companies would back that and push privacy built into IoT when the whole idea is to control everything centrally and monetize on the Big Data potential?

Ergo standards must not only be Open Source but also standardization bodies like the W3, ETSI, and all the others should aim to change their business models to give those a voice that currently have none. IMO allowing companies with less than 15 employees to join for free would be a good start. Also the open community groups would be more attractive if their members could get a seat as a collective during the actual decision making.

This could level the playing field and limit the currently top-down imposed ‟democracy” to maintain dominance.

Valbonne Consulting provides Research & Consulting for emerging technologies in Internet/Web of Things (WoT/IoT/M2M) and Emerging-Tech. We specialise in decentralisation, security and privacy. We work across a variety of traditional industry verticals (Telecommunications, Automotive, Energy, ...). We support Open Source and technologies built on open standards.

Joachim Bauernberger
Passionate about Open Source, GNU/Linux and Security since 1996. I write about future technology and how to make R&D faster. Expatriate, Entrepreneur, Adventurer and Foodie, currently living near Nice, France.

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