Be Open


Principle Six of the Mozilla Manifesto reads as follows:

The effectiveness of the Internet as a public resource depends upon interoperability (protocols, data formats, content), innovation and decentralized participation worldwide.

That's great as far as it goes, but interoperability is not enough. AbiWord is interoperable with MS Word, email is interoperable with SMS through suitable gateways, Ghostscript is interoperable with Adobe Acrobat Reader, OpenOffice is interoperable with PowerPoint, Ogg Vorbis is interoperable with MP3 through various audio converters, and Pidgin is interoperable with AOL Instant Messenger.

But the underlying protocols, data formats, and content are closed, proprietary, probably patent-encumbered, and under the control of large corporations and industry consortiums like Microsoft, Adobe, and AOL. The result? Text, music, video, and communications that are less free than they deserve to be, and an Internet that is less open than it needs to be for the continued viability of our open society.

When we talk about protocols and data formats, we are talking about standards. Standards needs to be open. Sure, MS Word and PDF and PowerPoint and MP3 and AIM or MSN are de-facto "standards", but they are closed. By contrast, HTML and email and OpenData and Atom and Ogg Vorbis and Jabber are truly open technologies and open standards.

The Mozilla Foundation can be a great force for good in the world by consistently adopting open standards in its projects, creating new Mozilla-based projects (or working with existing projects, such as Songbird and SamePlace) that use open standards, and working with groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the W3C, the IETF, XIPH, and the XMPP Standards Foundation to develop and extend the range of open standards.

The long-term health of the Internet is at stake.

Peter Saint-Andre > Journal