The New Openness

Herb Sutter wrote a post explaining the ISO meaning of the word “open”. I responded:

I understand that this was once a perfectly acceptable interpretation of the word “open”, but the software world has moved on. Groups like the IETF, W3C, and WHATWG – not to mention the Open Source movement as a whole – have set a new bar for what it means to be “open” in computing. And by and large the standards emanating from those groups have been the better for being transparently and publicly debated, and made available for free.

Not to mention the positive effect the new openness has on standards adoption. I can tell Github that I think they are using the wrong HTTP response code in a web service, and they can google “http response codes” and check it for themselves in a matter of seconds. They would be less likely to do that if they had to purchase some PDF and search through it.

The ISO version of “openness” is one of the reasons the English-speaking Ruby community has largely taken the view that the effort to create an ISO standard around Ruby is irrelevant and not worth their attention. I recently created a wiki just so interested people could have a place to openly pick apart and discuss the draft Ruby standard. I shouldn’t have had to do that.

I’m in the camp that thinks standards are useful and worthwhile efforts. C++ in particular has benefited from a robust standardization process. The world has changed, though; for the better in my opinion. “Open” means more than it ever has before, and that’s a good thing. Standards organizations would do well to embrace the new openness, or risk decreasing relevance.