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An open standard is

one which is collaboratively developed, clearly defined and recognized by an independent body. Open standards are vendor neutral and encourage interoperability by not being confined to any one platform.[1]
[w]idely accepted and supported standards set by recognized standards organizations or the marketplace. These standards support interoperability, portability, and scalability and are equally available to the general public at no cost or with a moderate license fee.[2]
[a] standard developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies, both domestic and international. These standards include provisions requiring that owners of relevant intellectual property have agreed to make that intellectual property available on a non-discriminatory, royalty-free or reasonable royalty basis to all interested parties.[3]


Open standards, by contrast, are blind to the internal composition or economics of any particular program or device. Open standards specify certain external behaviors of a program or device in order to ensure interoperability among various implementations. Open standards may describe file formats, communication protocols, or equipment configurations. They are deemed "open" to the extent that they are published so that products and applications can implement them without licensing or other costs.

Arguably the most successful open standards effort to date has been the Internet itself. By publishing a collection of non-proprietary technical standards (the Internet protocols) for unencumbered use, the creators of the Internet enabled data exchange among diverse computer systems and software packages. As a result, the data and functionality available on any Internet-connected computer now vastly exceed the usefulness of that same computer standing alone.


  1. Government 2.0 Taskforce, Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0, App. C: Glossary (full-text).
  2. Defense Acquisition University, Glossary, at B-126 (13th ed. Nov. 2009) (full-text).
  3. Project Open Data, Glossary (full-text).


See also[]