Open standards: you want to be able to call the police independently of the phone you use, right?

However FEMA announced that online applications for Federal Disaster Assistance would only be accepted from victims who use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer web browser.
On grokster you can find this great article When Open Standards Really Matter – The Katrina Factor. I really suggest you to read it and to pass it on to your friends (especially the non-tech-savvy ones!). Starting from post-Katrina communication efforts, it makes good points on why communication formats MUST be based on open standards.
Isn’t it time, after so much suffering, to recognize that keeping people alive is more important than allowing private companies to lock in customers into proprietary systems that don’t then work in an emergency? And why does the Internet always work, no matter who you are or what operating system you use? Because it was built, not on proprietary standards, but entirely on open standards. That’s why you can send an email to me, even if you are using Microsoft Outlook. I don’t run any Microsoft products currently, but because of open standards, I can still read your email, and in an emergency, we will not be disconnected because we are on “different communication systems.” (…)
I shudder to think what Microsoft would have done, if it had invented the Internet. Every bit of it would be patented, and we’d all be paying through the nose and would be restricted to whatever Microsoft chose to let us do. (…)
If Microsoft is successful in persuading the powers that be to establish emergency communications based on their proprietary XML, it will shut out millions of people. That is too big a price to pay. And there is no reason why Microsoft can’t follow the same XML standards as the rest of the world. They may feel it is in their best interest to have proprietary extensions on XML, patented to boot, but it isn’t in the public’s best interest to be forced to use it, and frankly, why would any government wish to reinforce a monopoly’s monopoly position? How is that good for the marketplace? For that matter, how does it build faith and respect for the law?
Anyone should really tell me a reason for which a closed, proprietary, secret format is better than a public, published, standard one. It is like someone telling you “it is better if you forget English, Italian, etc and communicate only using the language I inventend. You cannot understand how to utter words (the language is secret) but you can use our tools to do it (of course other people cannot create other tools for uttering words because, you know, it costed a lot to us to develop this language and, you know, we must get some money to buy food, you know). It will be much much better, for everyone”. By the way, Massachusetts is requiring open standards for all government documents. If your software does not save documents in open standards, Massachusetts’s agencies cannot buy it, as simple as that.

One thought on “Open standards: you want to be able to call the police independently of the phone you use, right?

  1. Marco Fabbri

    A Very fine reading.

    Another good insight on Wired at,1294,68850,00.html , “By giving owners too many rights to control whether and when the public accesses those servers, we will lose the very openness that makes the internet particularly cool” period .

    By the way, (quite OT) I ran in this video about Trusted Computing (and so Trust) . It is very well made, simple and effective. Imho, as you are quite interested in trust, you’ll find it interesting, specially the definition given:
    “Trust is the personal believe in correctness of .

    It is the deep conviction of truth and rightness, and can not be enforced.

    If you gain s.o. trust, you have estabilished an interpersonal relationship, based on communication, shared values and experiences.

    TRUST always depends on mutuality.”

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