Weblog:   The Growing Politicization of Open Source
Subject:   Open Source or Open Standards?
Date:   2002-08-16 11:33:50
From:   zwack
While I agree that legislation mandating Open Source software is bad, I don't think that Government should completely avoid legislation in this area.
Specifically, I think that governments SHOULD require that all software that they use generates files in formats specified in open standards. Not only that, but this software should default to that format.
If Microsoft want to compete with OpenOffice for a word processor contract then they will need to produce standard documents from Microsoft Word for Small Governments...
By Open Standard I mean that the standard should be available to anyone, with no conditions on receiving a copy of it, and with the standard that it documents available for anyone to use without having to worry about licensing terms. The standard should be complete. If Vendor A adds an extension to the standard for their product then the extension should be documented and should be released under the same terms. No more embrace and extend.
This will allow Governments to buy whatever software they like, but will also allow that software to interoperate. Wordperfect, Word, OpenOffice would all be on a level playing field. If the provider of the package du jour gous bankrupt, no problem, someone else has all of the information required to at the very least be able to read the format.
So, NO don't require Open Source, REQUIRE OPEN STANDARDS.
Of course if the standards are open then one department might want Word because they are used to it, while another might prefer OpenOffice because their budget ran out, and a third might prefer TimWord because he guarantees to come out and fix it whenever it breaks.
Once the proprietary standards are gone software choices can be real choices...
The attractive sales people...
OK we might have trouble fixing the last one, but if a product fails to win a contract then at least it won't be because "well, it can't display X properly"... Perhaps their should be standards legislated for the entire purchasing process...

It should be open, the criteria should be spelled out in the request for bids, a "score card" should be produced saying how well each bid fared against the criteria...
This may rule out open source that nobody was willing to provide support for, but more likely it would help provide a basis for a service industry to support open source.
Any thoughts or comments?


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