The third episode in the Our Space video series on internet governance looks at the importance of open standards and the standardization process with Wendy Seltzer, policy council at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): ‘Open standards are part of the infrastructure of the internet and of the web. When they work well it’s easy to ignore them and keep the traffic moving, but they require maintenance and they require the participation of a large community to keep them functioning.’

‘The openness of open standards refers to the way those standards are derived, through open and public processes where contributions are invited from around the ecosystem, where participation is widely open, where the standards are developed in public, invite public comment and where the standards are made available to those who want to use and implement them.’

Open source software development plays a critical role to an open and inclusive internet, according to Mishi Choudhary, founding director of the Software Freedom Law Centre India: ‘People know that when five of us work together we make a better product, when 50 of us work together we can find the problems in that product, when 500 and 5,000 and 5 million of us work together then all bugs are shallow. Then we can find problems all the time in it and keep fixing that thing. No one company has the resources to hire people and motivate them to create something because they love it.’

‘The free and open source movement has become so successful that there is no question – whether you’re using a smartphone, watching television, whether it’s a router in your house, a web server, or a server in your company – that it does not have free and open source software.’

Open standards allow innovation not just within communities, but also between communities, as Wendy Seltzer explains: ‘An open standard can be implemented in open source software and in proprietary software. The value of the open standard is that it allows people to interface with one another. So products made by different companies in different countries and by users speaking different languages can all interface with one another through the open standard.’

‘We as individuals need to be stakeholders in the protection of our information and our communications. We don’t allow a bridge to collapse or a tunnel to fall in, so we need to invite a broad participation in crafting the standards that keep the internet traffic flowing.’

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