Open standards are standards that are available to the public and anyone either a developer or a corporation can add them into their software program. Open standards come to fill the need for interoperability. The problem that computer industry had before open standards was how to communicate two systems of different vendors. Each vendor was producing his proprietary solution and communication was almost impossible. Examples are those of Microsoft Windows and Macintosh OS. A good example of open standards is given from the Internet Engineering Task Force , their purpose to develop and maintain an open standard for network communication. (Coyle, Karen, 2002) Examples of platform specific technologies for distributed applications are DCOM and CORBA which although someone can create bridge software their use over the Internet is problematic.
There is a difference between open standards and open software. It is very important to note that open standards can be used by both open source and closed source software programs. There are cases that the reference implementation of an open standard can be available for non-commercial use. (Dave Welsh, 2004).
The open source initiative gives guidelines about what is open source. Open source does not mean only access to the source code of a software program but also includes guidelines for the distribution of the source code. The license must allow derivate works and modifications. The license must not restrict the use of the source for a specific field, such as only for non-commercial use or only for research.
The simplest way to make software public is to put it into public domain without any copyright. This method does not protect the source code and the creator of the source code from someone else (individual or corporation) to copy the code, and create proprietary software. Open source licenses come to solve many problems involving with open source. The license is needed for a simple reason to protect open source. There are many types of licenses including:
- The GNU General Public License (GPL),
- The Lesser GPL,
- The Apache license 2.0
- and many others.
There are also licenses of free software that are incompatible with the GPL licensing. Such licenses include:
- The Apache license 1.1,
- The IBM public license,
- The Microsoft Public license
- and many others.
There are many variations of licenses regarding free software. A company must invest a lot of time to read and comprehend the various licenses especially if you want to use some open source library in a commercial product. Some licenses may allow only the distribution of the source code along with the source code of the derivative work or that someone can use the source code and the derivative work can be a closed system. It is worthy to note that open source software does not necessarily means free software.
Richard Stallman initiated the GNU project and the free software movement. The main idea was that users should have the freedom to change the programs in whatever ways they wanted and not to be locked in to a specific product. IBM and Oracle used Linux which is open source and free to weaken Microsoft. Companies started using Linux to and a lot of other open source free software to save money. Companies like Red Hat and Novell are making money by distributing Linux for free and charging for support. The model for free software is not to charge for the software but for the support or the training about the software. Venture Capitalists have invested more than US$ 3 billion in 163 open-source firms between 1997 and 2008. (Economist, 391, no. 8633 p. 69)
As a conclusion, it is evident that open standards with open source is totally different. Open standards promote interoperability of systems. Open source promotes knowledge because the source code is exposed to everybody to see, learn and correct it. Giving open source software for free has many benefits both to the user and to the producer. The benefits for the producer are:
- Income from services
- Income from training
- Potential large user base (pull marketing)
The benefits for the users are:
- Security because the company has the source code and if the publisher of the software disappears they have the source to correct problems,
- Increased reliability, more eyes inspect the lines of code for errors.
Karen Coyle (2002). “Open source, open standards. ” Information Technology and Libraries 21.1 (2002): 33-36. ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Source, ProQuest.
McInnis, G.. Competitive actions of companies whose revenue relies on open source software. Diss. Carleton University (Canada), 2009. Dissertations & Theses: Full Text, ProQuest.
Dave Welsh (2004). Distinguishing between Open Standards and Open Source — Part III of III Available from: http://blogs.msdn.com/dave_welsh/archive/2004/08/28/222206.aspx