Interoperability is primarily a matter of the use case, not of the technology. Policymakers considering interoperability mandates need to be watchful for extremes of perfection or compromise, which both offer a game to be exploited by the unscrupulous.
Reviewers of a paper concerning interoperability complained that some sections seemed to imply only 100% functional equivalence would be acceptable, and told us “much smaller percentages are perfectly adequate.” So how much interoperability is enough interoperability? The answer, dear to the hearts of every politician, is “it depends”.
How similar are open source development and standards development? Not at all, and even the words they have in common mean different things in each.
It is often asserted that open source and open standards are in some way similar. For example, in the accompanying letter to a recent submission to the European Commission, a major European-based technology company that is very active is standardisation said:
The coming wave of digital regulation may claim to target “Big Tech” but will inevitably end up harming citizen-innovators most because regulators have forgotten to include them in their process.
Here come the regulators. “Big Tech” companies like Facebook and Google definitely deserve some guide-rails, as well as some consequences for the unwanted impacts they have foisted on society along with the desirable ones. Facebook in particular has some deep, serious consequences of its amorality due soon. But so far, pretty much every regulation relating to the digital realm is defective.
The open source network effect depends on unrestricted software freedoms. Licensing & business models that restrict those freedoms aren’t seeking the open source effect – or if they are they will fail – so calling a policy, product or company that does so “open source” is false advertising.
A focus solely on open source legal and licensing matters as they affect companies creates bad outcomes — for leaders and their advisers who are surprised by community and market reactions, and for developers who feel abused and betrayed by “open source companies” and “government initiatives” that actually put obstacles in their path rather than remove them. While the minutiae of open source licensing and governance need to be understood and accommodated, it’s vital to never lose sight of the open source effect itself.