Accelerating Open Standards development with Community Specifications

Introduction

In an earlier post back in May, the Linux Foundation and Joint Development Foundation (JDF) announced its ability to propose international standards by being recognized as an ISO/IEC JTC1 PAS submitter and that it had submitted its first standard, OpenChain, for international review. We also discussed why Open Standards were essential to the Linux Foundation’s efforts, just as Open Source projects are.

Today, we’re announcing a new way for communities to create Open Standards. We call it the Community Specification, and it allows communities to develop standards and specifications using the tools and approaches that are inspired and proven by open source developers. It’s standards development explicitly designed for Git-based workflows. The Community Specification brings the frictionless approach of open source collaborations to standards development.

It’s flexible, enabling small and large standards collaborations. And it’s built for growth. When or if the time is right, Community Specification projects can move to the Joint Development Foundation or another standards body. From there, the Joint Development Foundation can provide a path to international standardization.

Standards play a role in everyone’s life. Think about the things you touch every day, as simple as a power plug, the USB connector on your phone or laptop, or the WiFi that you use in your business and your home to connect your mobile devices wirelessly. All of these devices need to be able to interoperate with each other. 

Open Standards are best defined as specifications made available to the public, developed, and maintained via an inclusive, collaborative, transparent, and consensus-driven process. Open standards facilitate interoperability and data exchange among different products or services and are intended for widespread adoption.

Setting up a well-formed standards project is important. Items like due process, balance, inclusiveness, and intellectual property clarity are vital to developing technology that meets the needs of the broader community that can be implemented without intellectual property surprises.

The Community Specification builds on these best practices and brings them to the Git repository development environments that developers are already using. And it makes it easy to get started. You can start using the Community Specification by bringing its terms into your repository and getting to work — just like starting an open source project. 

Lowering the costs and reducing the level of effort of creating specifications

Starting a new standards effort is traditionally a time consuming and expensive project. It takes time, money, and effort — from negotiating multi-party agreements to dealing with the legal and corporate formalities to obtaining professional support.

The Joint Development Foundation created a much-streamlined alternative to setting up a traditional standards-setting activity. We created a standardized set of formation documents and procedures that allow the collaborators to choose from a predefined set of licensing terms. 

JDF took this expensive multi-month process and replaced it with a “check-the-box” approach that has already enabled over 13 communities like Open Manufacturing Platform, GraphQL, and Trust Over IP to get up and running quickly, and allowing these communities to create technologies with worldwide impact.

For these projects, the JDF shortened the process of creating a new standards project from many months to as quickly as a few days and removed much of the ongoing legal overhead of creating a new non-profit company to host the project.  

And while JDF has streamlined the creation of new standards organizations by providing a “standards organization in a box,” sometimes an even lighter-weight approach is desired. Today, the JDF is pleased to announce its latest innovation, the Community Specification.  

The Community Specification is the next step in reducing the friction of standards development.  By incorporating the Community Specification materials into a Git-based repository, communities can now start a standards development effort as quickly as an open source project, using proven standards-based best practices for governance and intellectual property. And it’s free. The Community Specification provides a “standards-organization-in-a-repo.” All you have to do is clone or copy the Community Specifications repository, fill in a few details, and get started.

JDF takes its inspiration from the developer community. We know the ultimate consumer of a specification is the implementer, and implementers are by and large developers. So it is no accident that the Community Specification relies on Git-based repositories like GitHub and GitLab as its platform for creating new standards. 

The tools that are natively available for managing contributions in a Git-based repository via an open and inclusive process are based on best practices from standards and open source development models. To make this process attractive to developers, we have adopted a single set of agreements for technical contributions, source code, governance, code of conduct, patents, and copyright. 

The Community Specification will allow communities to employ a fast and easy way to start a specification development process using software development-style tools and workflows that they already know. 

Conclusion

The new Community Specification process allows contributors to start a specification collaboration with a simple set of licenses and procedures at no cost. The Community specification is efficient and runs using tools and approaches that lower the administrative burden on the organizers and ensures contribution integrity. The project can run as a repository-based collaboration or as a legal entity under JDF, depending on the project’s needs. 

From this starting point, the collaborative can move seamlessly into a more structured JDF project that allows the project to scale up the support services to allow for broader member participation, collections of membership dues, test events, and marketing services. As part of the Joint Development ecosystem, the projects may also enjoy the benefits of being part of the world’s largest developer ecosystem at the Linux Foundation.  

In the ultimate expression of a standard’s success, the project may apply to submit the specification to JTC1/ISO/IEC through the JDF PAS submitter program, which allows the specification to reach national standards bodies worldwide.  

The Community Specification can dramatically reduce the time developers spend on building and meeting spec requirements and ensure important work is not lost and time is not wasted. By democratizing the specification build process, developers have more time to innovate and build the technologies that differentiate their work from others. 

We invite interested projects and people with great ideas to benefit from an organized collaboration platform to reach out to the Joint Development Foundation. 

The Linux Foundation
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