[fosscomm] Blog post on Open Standards

Venkatesh Hariharan venkyh at gmail.com
Wed Jul 8 06:21:11 PDT 2009


http://osindia.blogspot.com/2009/07/draft-on-open-source-standards-splits.html

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Draft on open source standards splits IT industry: Economic Times Report

Economic Times carried a news report on the Draft IT Policy. For the
last two or more years while the policy has been in the works, not a
peep was heard out of NASSCOM or MAIT. Last month, when the policy was
close to finalization, they argued for including royalty-based
standards and the use of multiple standards for the same domain.
According to the Economic Times report:

    [] NASSCOM, the apex body for software companies, is vehemently
opposed to the idea of a single and royalty-free standard. “Ways can
be worked out commercially to make a large e-governance project
viable. Making everything patent-free may not be a commercial
proposition as there might not be good standards available. On the
other hand, adopting a single standard may constrict the country to
adopt an old standard, if a new and better standard emerges in future.
We support multiple standards which ensure interoperability at zero
cost,” says Rajdeep Sehrawat, VP, Nasscom.

If the Automobile Association of India took a cue from NASSCOM's stand
on multiple standards and argued that cars sold in India should have
right hand or left hand drives (the choice being that of the vendor,
of course) the number of accidents would go up exponentially. Now, if
users also demanded their, ahem, "rights," and said, "We should have a
choice of which side of the road we should drive on," accidents will
go up another exponential level. The point is that standards are
collective choices that are imposed upon society for the better of
all. I have no choice in deciding which side of the road I can drive
on, but my life is better off for it. How many standards do you wish
to use? Do you want two different standards for web pages and the
corresponding mess of pages not displaying properly? There is only one
single HTML standard because the vision of the creators of the web was
to unify people, not divide them. The best standards, like HTML and
Unicode are those that are universally supported.

NASSCOM's Mr. Sehrawat says, "On the other hand, adopting a single
standard may constrict the country to adopt an old standard, if a new
and better standard emerges in future. We support multiple standards
which ensure interoperability at zero cost.”

Is India "constricted" because we have adopted "old standards" like
HTML and Unicode? The world migrated from ASCII to Unicode and is
migrating from HTML to XML-based web pages even as we speak. The
"multiple standards which ensure interoperability at zero cost" is a
nice Trojan Horse to sneak in proprietary standards.

Finally, will NASSCOM's suggestions benefit India? No, because the
vast majority of standards are controlled by entities that lie outside
our borders. If accepted, NASSCOM (and MAIT's) suggestions will mean
that the country will pay huge royalties to foreign outfits. Does
anyone remember what happened to us when the British East India
Company came to us with a similar proposal?

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