Open Standards and Open Source

As we worked on Ignite we wanted to come up with a powerful core message for the community. We knew it was going to have something to do with both open standards and Open Source, but the real excitement came when we realized that it was the relationship of both of these forms of openness that we really wanted to focus on.

Open standards are an important part of any technology. From standard outlet sizes for electricity in homes to standard protocols on the Internet, open standards allow technology to reach more people and add more economic value than closed or proprietary standards. Open Source and open standards complement each other by increasing an open standard’s relevance and by fostering interoperability between software projects. The XMPP community is a great example of this relationship and the benefits are visible in the wide range of areas that XMPP is used. Another favorite example is email – once open standards took hold, email usage in businesses skyrocketed. Will the same happen with IM?!!

Open Source is a primary driver of open standards. Wide adoption is fostered by free and no cost implementations and APIs for open standards. Take the Smack API for example. It provides a simple API for Java developers to add XMPP functionality to their applications. Smack is used for everything from low-level application integration, event notifications from hardware devices, and desktop RTC clients like Spark. And because it is based on an open standard, integration with other platforms becomes easier since XMPP APIs are available in many programming languages.

Besides fostering wide adoption of open standards, Open Source also feeds back into the standards specification process. Open Source standards implementers contribute back to the standards process by recommending improvements, discovering ambiguities, and providing an implementer’s perspective on the standard. The standard becomes stronger and easier to implement and everyone wins.

With all of this positive feedback streaming between Open Source and open standards it was only natural that the core message of Ignite Realtime be the promotion of the relationship between the two. Of course, we’re a commercial company and not just about Open Source. We sell Wildfire Enterprise as a commercial extension to Wildfire and count on the fact that a good percentage of the community will find the Enterprise feature set compelling enough to make a purchase. We strongly believe that commercial software fits well into the Open Source/open standards relationship – we think of it as the crank that keeps the wheel going (see Dave’s blog entries for more on this). How do we visualize all of this? You can see our attempt as the image in this blog post, which can also be found on the Ignite Realtime home page.