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Openness is Alive and Well (and Living in Europe)

The Standards Blog - Andy Updegrove - Last week I took something of a trip back through time. The transition began somewhere over the dark Atlantic, on my way to Brussels via Heathrow, when the person sitting next to me struck up a conversation. Improbably, I found myself discussing ODF – the OpenDocument Format – with a former Sun engineer who had followed the ODF–OOXML contest with great interest back in 2005 - 2007. I was sorry to tell him, and he was sorry to hear, that things had not gone so well in the years that followed, and that many of the bright hopes of those that had supported ODF remained to be realized.

The conversation set me thinking about how much of the energy that had surrounded open standards back then has faded from view in the U.S.  

That’s not the case in Europe, though, where the promise of openness in all things IT-related, including in open standards, remains a hot topic.  Only a few weeks ago, for example, the EU Parliament voted to amend its regulations relating to the use of open standards, and these regulations will flow through to the member states as of January 1 of next year.

The level of government interest in openness in Europe is what had me heading East - to participate in two conferences, one convened by OpenForum Europe and the other by OpenForum Academy.


The reasons for the enduring interest in openness on the Continent are several, but perhaps the most obvious one is that the European Union is not a long-settled federation like the United States, but a still evolving work in process. The result is that the relationship of nation to nation, and of nation to Union, remains very much in flux, and policy continues to evolve on a constant basis.