Welcome Steps Toward Openness

Hear that rumble? That's the noise of customers demanding that IT providers support open standards.

Hear that rumble? Thats the noise of customers demanding that IT providers support open standards. In the past few weeks, weve seen user demands result in some welcome steps toward a more open computing environment.

We argued last October that it would be a bad idea for the World Wide Web Consortium to allow patented technologies licensed under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms to be included in Web standards. As a response to the feedback it received, the W3C last month issued a new draft of its patent policy, now recommending that patented technologies be allowed only in Web standards when royalty-free. This is the right thing for the Web, and we applaud the W3C for changing its mind.

Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Craig Mundies announcement at last months RSA security show that Microsoft would document and allow free use of its Windows 2000 Kerberos extensions is more of a mixed bag for users.

Microsoft-proprietary extensions to the Windows 2000 network log-in process, which uses the Kerberos protocol, ensured that Windows 2000 clients could not be used with existing Kerberos infrastructure without manual user-name mapping. However, Kerberos users still wont be able to consolidate their separate Windows 2000 domain controllers and Kerberos servers because several parts of the Windows log-on process remain undocumented.

In the next few weeks, Sun has a chance to do Microsoft one better on the openness front. The agreement on how third parties must implement Java standards (the Java Specification Participation Agreement) is undergoing a major revision. Sun should listen to the Apache Software Foundation, which opposes the current draft because it doesnt ensure that nonprofit organizations such as Apache have the source code and testing suite access they need to continue developing Java standards-compatible servers.

Speaking out makes a difference. The recent progress toward open standards should encourage all of us to call for more of the same.