The Value of Open Standards

Posted by Andy_Updegrove on Jul 26, 2013 11:47 AM EDT Standards Blog; By Andy Updegrove
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A perennial challenge faced by standards advocates is how to quantify the economic benefits they contend standards can provide.

Absent such data, it can be difficult to convince those in positions of authority that the expense of developing, promoting and requiring compliance with standards is justified.

One result of this reality has been an effort to differentiate standards deemed to be less virtuous from those thought to be less so – the latter usually being referred to as "open standards." From an economic point of view, however, saying why one standard is "good" and another (impliedly) is "bad" needs to be supported by results in the marketplace, or the exercise is simply an exercise in abstraction. Unless those results can be demonstrated, it's not easy to get anyone to care which type of standards they should prefer.

The use of standards can provide other types of economic value that may be very difficult to measure, such as losses avoided through the use of robust security standards. And they can also provide important benefits that aren't economic at all, such as protecting privacy, ensuring equal access to government resources, and supporting the right to choose products of one's choice. Standards such as these should be regarded as having a different type of value than those that define a purely technical element of (say) a communications standard.

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