Laurent Liscia, OASIS

In parallel (I have to stress the word “parallel”, we’ll see why in a second) thousands of independent software developers were inventing Web-based programs that could run in your browser, and could be used free of charge using exotic licenses such as GPL, and later, creative commons modes. Oftentimes these programs were built using languages (JAVA, PHP, Javascript) or platforms (Apache on Linux) that were also free of charge. Companies that charged good money for their software watched in horror as code that let you do hundreds of things over the Web was being given away. You’ve recognized the advent of the Open Source community—a group of hyper-intelligent and hyper-linked hippies who challenged everything we knew about patents and the rewards of innovation. They didn’t WANT to be rewarded, at least not at first.

These idealist developers wanted to donate their work to the community (while usually being supported by day jobs at regular software companies, but let’s pass on that). As for the more cynical ones, they figured out, not because they were particularly clever, but because they saw it happen and had their eyes open, that giving away something valuable was a way to gain quick market share.

There is much understandable confusion in the public between open source and open standards. Open source programs are programs that are available free of charge, and can be modified by whoever wants to use them (thus, the “open” denomination) but don’t necessarily work together. Open standards are the result of a collective, transparent and democratic process that describes how data should be exchanged.

Here’s how to get a sense of the difference. Think of Linux: there are many distributions or flavors of Linux, which is an open source Unix-based operating system; but each requires a separate installation and does not necessarily interoperate with another Linux distribution.

An open standard on the other hand tells you how programs interoperate.

In our next segment we’ll find out how we get from Open Source to truly open standards, and how open standards have turned the innovation process on its head.

Click here to read Part 1 of Laurent’s six part series.
Click here to read Part 2 of Laurent’s six part series.
Click here to read Part 3 of Laurent’s six part series.
Click here to read Part 4 of Laurent’s six part series.

***Please look for the final article in Laurent’s six part series on the topic of Standards and Innovation in next month’s issue of Information Management News.***