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Impact Imminent: Open Source and Standards


Adobe - Dave McAllister - Many years ago I wrote a posting on the similarities between standards development and open source.  It seems like now would be a good time to revisit that topic, given all the activities that are blurring the barriers.

The premise still remains.  Standards are designed to stabilize a technology or interface, package or connection. Open source is driven by continual development. Standards tend to update and publish on a schedule measured in years, while open source updates and publishes in sometimes days. Standards drive the status quo. Open source  (often) drives innovation.

However, the engagement between open source and standards are creeping ever closer together. We now see significant standards developments defined by and driven by corresponding open source work. Think HTML5, CSS, even (now emerging) ECMAscript (Javascript by any other name).  We have seen significant trends to allowing the acceptable advances in open source software to define the In short, the cycle of innovation adoption within standards is becoming significantly shorter as a reflection of the popularity of ideas expressed within open source products.

This really shouldn’t surprise anyone. Open source is the operative paradigm for development these days, whether it is within a company firewall or not. Open source underlies even the most innovative of closed software products.  Estimates from analysts state that 90% of software is a hybrid of open source and closed source code.  Open source practices help define innovative techniques, or to paraphrase “Linus’ Law” from Eric Raymond, “Given enough eyeballs, all ideas are approachable.”