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Open Standards vs Open Source

Open Standards vs Open Source

The benefits and market opportunities provided by open standards far outweigh those derived from open source. While the software development market has certainly benefited remarkably from open source, open standards and protocols such as TCP, HTTP, and XML have made it possible for developers and software vendors to participate in the most rapid technological progression of humanity in the history of the world.

Without question open source has been a boon to software developers. While you may not find many lines of Linux code in the proprietary applications software sold for systems running Linux and other operating systems, you will undoubtedly find developers and software products that have benefited either directly or indirectly from the buoyant properties of the open source community and its shared intellectual library of solutions to common software development challenges.

An understanding of the underpinnings of the operating system and its source code levels the playing field for the applications market. This may even lead vendors of proprietary operating systems, who also compete in the applications market, to think twice before taking unfair advantage of insider knowledge.

Despite the sizable contribution of open source to the world of technology, the assumption that open source and Linux are responsible for an economic bonanza for those companies that have embraced them is questionable. One must ponder the possibility that HP would have sold $2.5 billion in hardware, proprietary software, and services referred to as "Linux-based" with an alternative operating system if Linux and the open source concept did not exist because HP's customers would have required those goods and services regardless of the existence of open source and Linux.

Would IBM give up its quest to dominate the hardware and services market if open source and Linux had never come along? Would Oracle throw in the towel and stop selling its database for proprietary operating systems? Would Amazon.com close its virtual doors? Would governments cease critical services if they could not install an operating system without paying a license fee for it?

The real question is where would we be without open standards? Without HTTP there would be no Amazon.com. Without TCP/IP there would be no Internet. Without SMTP there would be no spam. Well, okay, maybe that would not be such a bad thing. Without Ethernet there would be no LAN for 20 bucks a node. Without XML there would be no easy way for disparate systems to work together. Without SOAP there would be no Web services. Without SSL there would be no e-commerce. Without development language standards such as ANSI, C++, and SQL 93, people like me would be lost in a sea of proprietary languages and unique development tools. Indeed, without all of these open standards and more, open source would be without purpose or direction, without a skeleton on which to build the muscle and sinew that brings technology to life.

Standards bodies such as ANSI, ISO, ECMA, W3C, and IEEE are the guardians and keepers of the technological compacts that have made it possible for us to leap from the punch cards of 40 years ago to where we are today. Let us salute them and their many members who work tirelessly to the benefit of us all. Because of their work, I can plug my computer into an Ethernet jack anywhere in the world and be on the network. I can buy books from Amazon. com securely with the browser software of my choice. And I can jump on the Internet with a wireless card in any one of thousands of locations across the globe to check my e-mail, chat with friends, post a letter to the editor, or just catch up on the news in my small rural hometown.

More Stories By Tyler Jensen

Engrossed in enterprise application architecture and development for over ten years, Tyler Jensen is a senior technical consultant in a large health intelligence company, designing and developing claims processing and analysis software. In his spare time he does a little writing and outside consulting.

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