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April 26, 2005

Confusing Open Standards with Open Source

IBM issued a press release last week about something they were doing to help "...accelerate the adoption of open standards based solutions in Israel." Many news outlets picked up the Reuters article on the subject, which was titled "IBM, Israeli Ministry to Back Open-Source Startups".

Do you notice something wrong here? IBM is talking about Open STANDARDS, and the Reuters article talks about Open SOURCE. In fact, further into the Reuters article it says "Open standards is an approach to technology development in which inventors make the underlying progamming [sic] code publicly available for other developers to build on and extend. It contrasts with the proprietary, or closed development approach most major technology companies, led by Microsoft Corp., have used to maximize their control over products they build." Of course, that's wrong. That's a definition for Open Source, not Open Standards. There is confusion between the terms Open Standards and Open Source. Even Linux Today picked the article up with that headline.

I checked with an IBM PR person, and indeed, the agreement is about products that work with IBM technologies through Open Standards (of course, some of these technologies are implemented with Open Source, but not all, but the products being developed don't have to be Open Source).

The article's writer, Eric Auchard, certainly knows the difference. Apparently, somewhere along the way to publication as the article had links added and headlines written, the headline became "Open-Source" instead of "Open Standards", and then a paragraph defining Open Source got added, but with it now saying it was about Open Standards. Of course, since IBM talks about both, and Israel was basically closed to business around the Passover holiday, confusion was easy to happen. I understand this will probably be corrected (as news articles from a wire service frequently have always been).

For me this was yet another example of something I've been pointing out for some time: There is a lot of confusion about Open Source that comes from lack of knowledge. Precise terms matter. "Highway" "Driveway" -- what's the difference? They're both "ways". "Source", "Standards", they're both "Open" and have to do with software, whatever that is. No.

Make sure people really know and understand what you're talking about when you talk about Open Source or Open Standards. Many proprietary products support Open Standards quite well. Some Open Source does not. Open Standards does not mean Open Source.

This is one of the issues I bring up in my video. It's nice to see it was worth devoting time to. (By the way, the video is in duplication and should be ready for purchase next week.)

Posted by danb at April 26, 2005 12:22 PM