The personal computer revolution and the following Internet explosion have resulted in a large influx of new technical standards stakeholders.4 These new stakeholders are making new demands on the Open Standards processes. Today, considering the rapid changes in technology and the expanding importance of technical standards, ANSI and its Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) need to reexamine what constitutes the "free and open encounter" that Open Standards strive to achieve.
Fortunately the future is not so bleak. Understanding that it takes very long spans of time to resolve a lack of coordination in the past appears to be a significant contributor to better coordination in the future. Recently the analog telephone approval standards of Canada and the United States were merged after several years' effort in the ANSI TIA TR-41 committee. And effective work is underway to merge US and European PBX approval standards in the same committee. In addition, new approaches made possible by the use of programmable processors are making compatibility achievable even when competing regional standards do not find common ground.6 So a combination of human efforts and technology appears to be improving the possibility of an Open World.
The Internet Society (ISOC) supports a non-accredited standards making organization, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which has pioneered new standards development and distribution procedures based on the Internet itself. While the IETF does not meet the ANSI criteria for consensus and due process, in some ways it offers a very open standards development process. Using the Internet, the IETF makes available electronically both its standards, termed RFCs, and the drafts of such standards at no charge. In fact using the facilities of the Internet, committee discussion of the draft standards can be monitored by anyone and response offered. This rapid widespread development, deployment and implementation of IETF standards has been extremely successful.
The IETF example offers some new direction to accredited standards development organizations. Conversely the concerns of accredited SDOs for balance and due process are being considered by the IETF. Certainly free and open access to standards work-in-progress as well as to the final standards is only part of the IETF success. But it is such a sufficient part that other standards organizations are now doing the same.7
|Organization||Name of Codified Document||Funding|
|Private company||Company specifications, practices||Profits|
|Groups of private companies||Group's procedures, criteria, rules||Pooled profits|
|IETF||Request for comments (RFC)||Dues, fees, government funding|
|Accredited regional Standards bodies||Standards||Member dues/fees/trade shows|
|Accredited international Standards bodies||International Standards (Recommendations)||Member dues/fees/trade shows|
The management of standards development is an overhead cost of the SDO. In addition to revenues from the sale of documents, each SDO may fund its standards development overhead in different ways. Accredited standards bodies fund their efforts with member dues and fees, although trade show revenues is becoming a larger contributor to the overall budget of more SDOs. Such trade shows also promote the use of standards, so the value of trade shows run by accredited standards organizations is two fold for the standards community. Private companies and groups of private companies fund their efforts to develop standards through their own profits. Governments usually fund the development of standards via taxes.
The major cost of standards development - expert participation - is born by the experts' organizations. Whether the necessary experts come from the private sector or the public, their participation is costly not only in direct costs to their organization but also in indirect costs: what the experts might accomplish if they were not working on standards development. Fundamentally the only reason for expert participation is to achieve the benefits of standardization. Expanding the stakeholders to improve market acceptance of the new standard is a basic reason why the experts invest their efforts in standards development. So if offering standards work-in-progress documents at little or no charge increases the number of stakeholders involved in the standards development process, it is an important principal to consider.
Offering free completed standards is only a minor cost reduction for developers or users and may be a significant income reduction for SDOs. Free distribution of completed standards is certainly a move towards "a free and open encounter." But there are only a few market segments where free completed standards may create a significant change in the number of standards stakeholders.
In the past, the fixed costs of printing, handling, storing and shipping documents suggested that a charge to the user acquiring the document was appropriate. With the advent of the Internet it is possible to reduce to near zero the direct costs of document distribution, although the indirect costs of creating and maintaining Internet access to documents has to be considered. This significant reduction in the direct costs of document distribution using the Internet opens the issue of what to charge for standards from any accredited standards organization.
Providing standards documents at no charge expands the distribution of the document; for some segments of the population, such as graduate students, such additional distribution may be important. However if students can access committee work-in-progress documents including drafts of formal documents, they will have almost all of what they need. Conversely, it is difficult to imagine many for-profit developers who will not choose to purchase the final published specification. This argues in favor of providing committee work-in-progress documents at no charge to increase the stakeholders, and for SDOs to continue to sell completed standards to minimize any impact on their existing economic model.
This question seems to have three possible answers:
Possibly standards development meetings should be open to all (which the IETF offers) as well as provide open access to committee documents. In this way, informed choices may be made about bringing new work to an accredited standards committee. Too often stakeholders in a new technology are reticent to bring their ideas to an accredited standards committee they have no experience with, or access to.
The Open Standards concept may not be well served by stakeholder-only committee meetings. Ultimately, as technology use expands, technical standards stakeholders are everyone. Using the Internet, access to committee discussion can be opened to almost all. This review appears to argue for open standards development meetings. However participation in standards meeting is a significant reason why some organizations join SDOs. So offering free meeting participation to all may well have negative economic consequence to some SDOs.
Meetings open to all also suggests the need for new rules. The news press participation in standards committee meetings has in the past been divisive, not due to the actions of the news press but more to the posturing of the stakeholders. Perhaps news press participation could fairly be limited to passive monitoring, rather than active participation.
|1.||Create standard||The major task of SDOs|
|2.||Fixes||Rectify problems identified in initial implementations|
|3||Maintenance||Add new features and keep the standard up to date with related standards work|
|4.||Availability||Continue to publish, possibly with a notification of no continuing maintenance.|
|5.||Recision||Removal of the published standard from distribution|
It is difficult to interest users in the first phase of standards development. The first phase appears to properly be the providence of developers. However, users have a clear interest in maintaining the equipment and systems they have invested in. On-going Support addresses the next four phases of standards work. Possibly with the advantages of the Internet to distribute standards and allow users to keep abreast of the work in standards meetings, greater user involvement in the on-going support of standards would be practical. This appears to be an area where the distribution of standards work-in-progress documentation and some related promotion could bring in more user stakeholders.
One way of achieving open interfaces is to implement a new technique termed an "etiquette."8 Etiquettes are a mechanism to negotiate protocols. While a protocol terminates an X.200 (OSI) layer, an etiquette, which may negotiate multiple OSI layer protocols, does not terminate (replace) any protocol layer function. An etiquette is used only for negotiating which protocol or features to employ. The purpose of etiquettes is connectivity and expandability. Proper etiquettes provide:
One of the earliest etiquettes is ITU Recommendation T.30 which is used in all Group 3 facsimile machines. Part of its function includes mechanisms to interoperate with previous Group 2 facsimile machines and it allows new features (public as well as proprietary) to be added to the system without the possibility of losing backward compatibility. More recently the V.8 etiquette was used to negotiate the V.34 modem modulation. Currently G.hs is being developed to provide a similar function in Digital Subscriber Line equipment.
Open Use supports public standards that do not promote private gain. The difficulty is that innovation has been shown to be closely related to private gain. While private gain from public standards is not an objective, supporting innovation is more important to society. Until the American society and its laws change, better IPR arbitration procedures to reduce the complexity of acquiring IPR are the only available means to address this issue.
ANSI, supported by its SDOs, should be charged formally with developing and implementing the concepts of Open Standards. Nine of these concepts should be considered. The first five principles are already a part of the existing Open Standards process. The next four appear to be emerging and may have significant value. Certain of these concepts have economic and technical import and must be addressed carefully. Based on the review above, the emerging Open Standards principles may be listed in rough priority:
|Open Standards concept||Impact||Risk/reward|
|Open Access - to committee work-in-progress documents||Little revenue loss, possible stakeholder increase||low/medium|
|On-going Support - of accredited standards||Increased user participation||low/medium|
|Open Access - to completed committee documents||Loss of standard document sales revenue||medium/medium|
|Open Meetings - all may attend meetings||Loss of membership dues||medium/medium|
|Open Interfaces||New technical requirements||medium/high|
|Open Use - not practical to offer|| || |
Reviewing these concepts on the basis of risk versus reward shows that Open Access to committee work-in-progress and On-going Support, with greater user participation in the later phases of standards work, are low risk ways to enhance the Open Standard process. Implementing these two concepts should be seriously considered.
Over the longer term it appears that funding to SDOs from completed standards sales and from membership dues may be impacted by future expansions of the Open Standards concept. Therefore it is advisable for ANSI accredited organizations to look more to trade shows as a desirable funding sources. And even more important, such trade shows could be used to promote increasing awareness of the value of formal standards. The broader exposure to the principles of Open Standards possible via a trade show format may add credibility to accredited standards work. Several trade shows supported by the standards industry (e.g., SuperComm) have been quite successful. ANSI, in North America, could take a greater roll in bringing together broader coalitions of formal SDOs into existing trade shows, thereby increasing attendance, as well as developing new trade shows where necessary.
Finally, the technical concept of Open Interfaces is emerging and may offer significant new benefits to all standards participants. Participants in standards committee work will have the opportunity to contribute to how this new technology direction will develop.
These are the current and potential principles of Open Standards visible today. Achieving lofty principles requires tireless effort. Total openness is probably impossible. But the task of Open Standards should be to strive towards that impossible perfection, "Where ask is have, where seek is find, Where knock is open wide." 11
2 In this paper the term "standards" only refers to work from accredited standards organizations. Return to text
3 Founded by five engineering societies and three US government agencies, ANSI remains a private, nonprofit membership organization. ANSI does not itself develop American National Standards; rather it facilitates development by establishing consensus among standards development organizations (SDOs). Return to text
4 Stakeholders are those individuals and organizations that have a material interest in the technical standards development or use. Return to text
5 American National Standards Institute, Procedures for the Development and Coordination of American National Standards, April 1998. Return to text
6 For additional information see Ken Krechmer, Recommendations for the Global information Highway: A Matter of Standards,Winner World Standards Day Paper Competition, 1995, published in ACM StandardView, March 1996. Return to text
7 In July, 1998 ETSI announced that its technical committee TIPHON (Telecommunications and Internet Protocol Harmonization Over Networks) will make available at no charge all committee documents and standards drafts. Return to text
8 Ken Krechmer, Technical Standards: Foundations for the Future, ACM StandardView, March 1996. Return to text
9 This use of WTO arbitration is discussed in greater detail in Ken Krechmer, Communications Standards and Patent Rights: Conflict or Coordination, Standards and Technology Annual Report (STAR) from Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), 1997. Return to text
10 Bill Gates, Compete, Don't Delete, The Economist, June 13, 1998. Return to text
11 Christopher Smart, A Song to David, 1763. This is a paraphrasing of an earlier work "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you". Matthew 7:7. Return to text
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