Folks who are interested in libraries and technology are often drawn to the issue of open standards. Using open standards is very important to libraries for a variety of reasons that Ed Corrado summarizes nicely.

This week my podcast reader picked up an excellent interview with Danese Cooper of the Open Source Initiative where she talks about the Open Standard Requirement which was introduced a few months ago. It provides a new perspective on the same issue from outside of the library community.

Essentially the OSR amounts to 5 guidelines for identifying a truly open standard. These guidelines are different though because they focus on what makes a standard open for an implementor. Whether the standard was created by an open process or not is really outside of scope. The important thing is how easy it is for a software developer to write software that uses the standard. A nice feature of the OSR is that the guidelines would fit on an index card. Here’s my regurgitation of them:

  1. The spec can’t omit details needed for implementation
  2. The standard needs to be freely/publicly available
  3. All patents involved in the spec need to be royalty free
  4. Clicking through a license agreement is not necessary
  5. The spec can’t be dependent on a standard that is not open as well

Danese was quick to point out that these are simply guidelines and not rules. For example Unicode fails on 2. since you have to pay for a copy of the spec. But in this case printing the standard is a publishing feat–given all the glyphs and their number. It’s not unusual that the book would cost money. So this guideline could be waived if the OSI folks agreed.

Rather than the OSI going and applying these rules to all known standards the idea is that standards bodies could claim self-compliance–and as developers implement the standard the compliance will be ascertained.

The guidelines themselves and the process of being fine tuned/hammered on–and they are looking for volunteers…