Open Standards Make Our World Go Round


To celebrate Document Freedom Day 2014, I have made an infographic which (I hope) explains how integral Open Standards are to our digital world and society, and in particular to our phpList community.

phpList_dfd_infographic_2014_web_largerOpen Standards

Open Standards are, roughly speaking, specifications for formats (such as .odf) or protocols (such as www) that are freely available and may be used for any purpose. This may sound obscure or even radical, but actually Open Standards are both vital and commonplace. They form the basis of much of the internet and are key to digital collaboration and freedom, as well as healthy competition between software creators.

In the real world

In “the real world” as opposed to the digital world, Open Standards are also commonplace, they specify, for example, the voltage of your household plug socket and which side of the road to drive on. Being able to understand and use these standards freely allows us to travel around the world or change our make of car, for example, without running into any technical or legal difficulties. We would not expect to be forced to drive a particular brand of car, or to pay a fee to a patent holder, to be allowed to read or follow the rules for which side of the road we need to drive on…

Locking Down

As our digital world has evolved some companies and patent-pools have created standards that are “closed.” The benefits for the company could be very high, but the negative implications for computer users are substantial. On an individual level, users could, for example, be forced to use a specific piece of software: they may have to pay for this with money and/or by signing up to restrictive and sometimes bizarre end user licence agreements. On a social level, problems range from the insecure future of important digital archives, to citizens being forced to use a specific brand of software to interact with their government, for example, when they submit their tax returns.

phpList and Open Standards

phpList is Open Source software, and so naturally uses Open Standards, such as CSV, to allow users total control of their data. However, as you can see from my infographic, that is by no means the end of the story.

Basically every task I do as phpList Community Manager uses Open Standards of some kind. Writing this blog, for example, used http, ip, www and html to name just a few. Also, while I write I am using IRC and xmpp to talk with my phpList friends and colleagues. A sizable portion of my day is spent replying to emails, which uses a whole host of Open Protocols, ranging from openPGP to imap and smtp.

Open Standards really are vital to our ability to work together on-line, without them we could not communicate or collaborate… and so my life would be a colossal bore!

So, to the Document Freedom Day team, and to those who work so hard to make Standards (and of course Software) Free and Open – three cheers and thank you!

Lots of love from Anna x

PS: Why not tell the world why YOU love Open Standards