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OpenStand: Internet standards groups embrace open process

Five leading Internet standards bodies have joined together to articulate a set of guidelines for the creation of open standards that they say will foster continued innovation, competition and interoperability in the Internet industry.

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The IEEE, the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Society and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) hammered out the language for their five basic principles for standards development over the course of the last few months. Dubbed "OpenStand," these lofty principles are envisioned as a modern paradigm for global, open standards development processes.

The OpenStand principles are in sharp contrast to the more formal, government-driven efforts of rival standards bodies such as the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is an arm of the United Nations, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a group of national standards bodies. While ITU and ISO have national representation, groups like the IAB and IETF are comprised of individual engineers from corporations and universities.

The OpenStand principles are:

-- Cooperation among standards bodies.

-- Adherence to due process, broad consensus, transparency, balance and openness in standards development.

-- Commitment to technical merit, interoperability, competition, innovation and benefit to humanity.

-- Availability of standards to all.

-- Voluntary adoption.

The five Internet standards bodies are hoping to influence new technology-specific industry groups and developing countries to adopt the OpenStand principles. They are emphasizing that these principles have proven successful as they've enabled the Internet to grow over the last 25 years.

"Efficient standardization of so many technologies has been key to the success of the global Internet," said Russ Housley, IETF chair. "These global standards were developed with a focus toward technical excellence and deployed through collaboration of many participants from around the world. The results have literally changed the world, surpassing anything that has ever been achieved through any other standards-development model."

Among the emerging areas where proponents would like to see OpenStand principles adopted are the smart grid electricity effort, cloud-based identity management initiatives and digital rights efforts.

"We hope governments hear this, industry hears this, open source communities hear this as well as potential new...consortiums that want to put forward what they would call standards," Housley said. "We've seen others flounder around openness, and they've thought that by being closed they could get something done faster. What we've come to realize is that it may take a little longer being open...but you get a better view from the diverse participation and in the end when the standard does emerge it is better thought out and more strongly supported."

Organizations that choose to follow the OpenStand principles can sign on as supporters on the group's Web site.

"My vision is that in five years - independent of any Web site where we are involved we have organizations that say they will only accept products that are built on standards that follow OpenStand principles," said Leslie Daigle, Chief Internet Technology Officer for the Internet Society. "I hope this will have a life of its own."

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.


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