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<meta name="author-name-2" content="Karsten Gerloff" />
<meta name="author-link-2" content="/about/gerloff/gerloff.html" />
<meta name="author-name-1" content="Hugo Roy" />
<meta name="author-link-1" content="/about/roy/roy.html" />
<meta name="publication-date" content="2010-03-24" />
<meta name="publication-original-date" content="2009-11-27" />
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<title>FSFE - EIFv2: Tracking the loss of interoperability</title>
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<body>
<p id="category"><a href="/projects/os/os.html">Open Standards</a></p>
<h1>EIFv2: Tracking the loss of interoperability</h1>
<div id="introduction">
<p>This document provides a comparative analysis of the evolution of the
European Interoperability Framework. Based on <a
href="http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/document/7732">consultations</a>
submitted on <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/document/7733">the
second version of the European Interoperability Framework</a> (EIF version
2), it emphasizes the different transformations the draft has undergone
since 2008.</p>
</div>
<p>From our analysis, we can conclude that in key places, the European
Commission has taken on board only the comments <a
href="http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/servlets/Doc?id=31903">made</a> by the <a
href="http://www.bsa.org">Business Software Alliance</a>, a lobby group
working on behalf of proprietary software vendors. At the same time,
comments by groups working in favour of Free Software and Open Standards
were neglected, e.g. those made by <a
href="http://openforumeurope.org/">Open Forum Europe</a>. </p>
<p>Looking back to the consultation draft, it is obvious that during the
development of EIFv2, the European Commission has abandoned the concept of
Open Standards as a key enabler for interoperability. This is a central
reason why the current draft would see the European Interoperability
Framework become a shadow of its former self.</p>
<p>Table of Contents</p>
<ul>
<li><a href="#about">What is the European Interoperability Framework?</a></li>
<li><a href="#one">1. Standards are key to interoperability</a></li>
<li><a href="#two">2. Eliminating the use of proprietary standards</a></li>
<li><a href="#three">3. The Openness Continuum</a></li>
</ul>
<h2 id="about">What is the European Interoperability Framework?</h2>
<p>The EIF is a set of interoperability guidelines documents and initiatives
conducted under the auspices of the ISA (Interoperability Solutions for
European Public Administrations) programme. The EIF supplements the various
National Interoperability Frameworks in the pan-European dimension.</p>
<ul>
<li>November 2004: <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/document/3473/5585#finalEIF">European Interoperability Framework (EIF) version 1</a></li>
<li>July 2008: EIF version 2, <a href="http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/servlets/Doc?id=31597">draft for consultation</a> (<a href="http://ec.europa.eu/idabc/en/document/7732">comments</a>)</li>
<li>November 2009: EIF version 2, <a href="http://blog.webwereld.nl/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/European-Interoperability-Framework-for-European-Public-Services-draft.pdf">leaked draft</a></li>
<li>March 2010: EIF version 2, <a href="#">leaked draft (release candidate)</a>
<p>If there are any improvements to be found over the November 2009
draft, they are cosmetic at best. Between then and now, the European
Commission has merely removed the formulations that attracted the most
criticism.</p>
</li>
</ul>
<h2 id="one">1. “Standards are key to interoperability”</h2>
<div class="compare">
<div class="clear">
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>A. EIFv2 Consultation Draft</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>"<span style="background:#ffff00">Standards are key to
interoperability.</span> In the EU strategy for Growth and Jobs,
strong and dynamic standardisation has been identified as one of
the key instruments to foster innovation. Standardisation has a
dimension of public interest, in particular whenever issues of
safety, health, environment and performance are at stake." (p.35)</p>
<p>"The role of national administrations in this process is to
<span style="background:#1e90ff">choose the appropriate
standard</span>"</p>
</blockquote>
<p>The Consultation Draft highlights the fact that standards are among the best tools to achieve interoperability without harming competition or innovation. Besides, it refers to "appropriate standard," which means that if several standards exist for the same purpose, then a choice should be made. This choice, as later explained, should give a preference to Open Standards.</p>
</div>
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>B. The Business Software Alliance's comments</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>"<span style="background:#ffff00">while open standards are
critical to achieving interoperability</span>, <span style="background:#ffa500">often a number of complementary mechanisms
work together to achieve the overall interoperability
goal.</span>"</p>
</blockquote>
<p>In this sentence, BSA refers explicitly to Open Standards while the assessment that is made suggests that standards themselves are not a key to interoperability.</p>
<blockquote>
<p>"Finally, the EIFv2.0 should refrain from recommending that
procurement be used to promote open standards. Instead, the EIF
v2.0 should endorse applicable principles and rules as expressed in
Directives 2004/18 and 98/34, and should encourage Member States to
make procurement decisions on the merits."</p>
</blockquote>
<p>While the Consultation Draft argued that national administrations' role is
to choose appropriate and Open Standards, the BSA clearly advocates against such decisions,
which should be based exclusively "on the merits."</p>
<blockquote>
<p>"Fourth, the <span style="background:#1e90ff">draft EIFv2.0
mistakenly suggests</span> that convergence toward a single set of
standards is better for public authorities than the use of
multiple, competing standards.
<span style="background:#1e90ff">Indeed, the draft concludes that the use of
multiple, equivalent standards may lead to a lack of
interoperability. Converging toward a single set of standards is,
in most cases, a highly risky approach</span>. Because it is
impossible to predict how any specific solution will fare in the
marketplace "</p>
</blockquote>
</div>
</div>
<div class="clear">
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>C. EIFv2 Leaked Draft 11/2009</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>"<span style="background:#ffff00">While there is a correlation
between openness and interoperability</span>, <span style="background:#ffa500">it is also true that interoperability can be
obtained without openness, for example via
<strong>homogeneity</strong> of the ICT systems, which implies that
all partners use, or agree to use, the same solution to implement a
European Public Service.</span>"</p>
</blockquote>
<p>Referring to BSA's "complementary mechanisms," the leaked draft argues that interoperability can also be achieved without standards, e.g. if everyone uses the same proprietary solution.</p>
</div>
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>D. EIFv2 Leaked Draft 03/2010</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>Therefore, European public administrations should strive towards
openness taking into account needs, priorities, legacy, budget, market
situation and a number of other factors.</p>
</blockquote>
<p>The unfortunate reference to homogeneity has been dropped out, in favour of openness.</p>
<p>This part has become even less meaningful than
the draft from November 2009. Given the vendor lock-in which proprietary
software and standards produce, the language in this section does not
provide any reasons for public administrations to consider moving to
Open Standards, let alone actually make the switch.</p>
</div>
</div><!--end .clear-->
<hr />
<p>The current draft says that in making their decision about whether to use
Open Standards, public bodies should consider "priorities, legacy, budget,
market situation" and other factors. This non-conclusive lists is easy to
decrypt:</p>
<ul>
<li><p>Like any strategic consideration, looking into Open Standards does
often take an initial extra effort. IT is not usually a mission priority
in public administrations. Therefore, explicitely naming "priorities" here
preserves the status quo.</p></li>
<li><p>"Legacy" implies that public administrations should look at the
format of the existing data they have, and consider the cost of switching
to a storage format based on Open Standards. Exit costs from proprietary
solutions can be substantial. But these costs always accrue eventually,
either now (when they can be calculated) or at a later time, when the
public body needs to switch to a new format (whether open or proprietary)
for some reason. In the latter case, the future costs are both higher and
harder to calculate.</p>
<p>The reference to "legacy" therefore asks public bodies to put off the
inevitable exit costs to some distant future day. Organisations following
this advice are in effect skirting their responsibility towards
citizens.</p></li>
<li><p>"market situation" is an invitation to public bodies to prefer the
dominant solution. On the desktop as well as in many other areas, the most
widespread solutions are usually proprietary, thanks to the long-standing
effects of vendor lock-in and the way in which some proprietary companies
have abused their dominant position.</p></li>
</ul>
<p>
With this reference to "market situation", the EC is asking Europe's
public bodies to further entrench current monopolies by choosing solutions
based simply on their market share, rather than on a full assessment of
their capabilities, long-term benefits and sustainability.
</p>
<h2 id="two">2. “Eliminating the use of proprietary standards”</h2>
<div class="clear">
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>A. EIFv2 Consultation Draft</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>"Public administrations and European Institutions such as the
European Commission should actively <span
style="background:#90ee90">support efforts at eliminating the use of
proprietary standards</span> and solutions within public administrations
by actively supporting and participating in standardization efforts,
particularly by formulating and communicating needs and requirements,
according to the new approach."</p>
<p>"make access to public services as affordable as possible."</p>
<p>"Administrations should ensure that <span
style="background:#ffc0cb">solutions and/or products
are chosen via a process in which competition between vendors is
fair. [...] do not lock them in</span> as regards future choices."</p>
<p>"This section advocates a <span
style="background:#90ee90">systematic migration towards the use
of open standards</span> or technical specifications [...] to guarantee
interoperability, to facilitate future reuse and long-term
sustainability while minimizing constraints. After contextualising
the definition of open standards or technical specifications, this
section addresses the assessment and selection of standards or
technical specifications and finally presents a set of
recommendations. (p 51)"</p>
<p>"<span
style="background:#ffc0cb">Access to the standards or technical specifications has to be
inexpensive and easy and there should be no (cost) barriers related
to their implementation</span> so that a wide variety of products will be
available on the market;"</p>
</blockquote>
<p>These extracts shows the original intention of the Framework. Besides promoting standards,
choosing Open Standards instead of proprietary ones was regarded as the best way to ensure
interoperability's success along with economic competition. <a href="#not1" id="anc1">[1]</a></p>
<blockquote>
<p>"considered an open standard under the EIF v1 definition:</p>
<ol>
<li>The open standard is adopted and will be maintained by a
not-for-profit organisation, and its ongoing development occurs on
the basis of an <span
style="background:#ffc0cb">open decision-making procedure available to all
interested parties (consensus or majority decision etc.)</span>.</li>
<li>The open standard has been published and the standard
specification document is available either <span
style="background:#ffc0cb">freely or at a nominal
charge. It must be permissible to all to copy, distribute and use
it for no fee or at a nominal fee</span>.</li>
<li>The intellectual property - i.e. <span
style="background:#ffc0cb">patents possibly present - of
(parts of) the open standard is made irrevocably available on a
royalty free basis</span>.</li>
<li>There are <span
style="background:#ffc0cb">no constraints on the re-use</span> of the standard."</li>
</ol>
</blockquote>
<p>This definition of an open standard was already approved in the first version of the European Interoperability Framework.</p>
</div>
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>B. The BSA's comments</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>"Second, both the EIF v2.0 and CAMSS <span
style="background:#ffc0cb">should either not define
open standards</span>, or should endorse a definition that is consistent
with common usage of the term. (...)
"open":</p>
<p>(1) the specification is publicly available <span
style="background:#ffc0cb">without cost or for
a reasonable fee</span> to any interested party;</p>
</blockquote>
<p>This point is an equivalent of EIFv1 definition's 2nd criterion. However, there are substantial differences. While the EIFv1 advocated "free of charge or at a nominal fee," the BSA argues for "a reasonable fee," which implies that Free Software is prevented from making use of those standards. ("Reasonable" refers to so-called "Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory" terms, which are in fact neither reasonable nor non-discriminatory from the point of view of Free Software. Under such terms, the person implementing the standard usually has to pay the rightsholder a royalty <strong>per copy</strong> of the software which is distributed. This clashes with most common Free Software licenses, which forbid restrictions on distribution. <a href="#not2" id="anc2">[2]</a></p>
<blockquote>
<p>(2) any patent rights necessary to implement the standard are
available to all implementers on <span
style="background:#ffc0cb">RAND terms, either with or without
payment of a reasonable royalty or fee</span>; and</p>
</blockquote>
<p>The EIFv1's definition required that patent rights made were irrevocably available for use without royalties. This is clearly against BSA's statement.</p>
<blockquote>
<p>(3) the specification should be in sufficient detail to enable a
complete understanding of its scope and purpose and to enable
competing implementations by multiple vendors.</p>
</blockquote>
</div>
</div><!--end .clear-->
<div class="clear">
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>C. EIFv2 Leaked Draft 11/2009</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>"<span style="background:#90ee90">It is up to the creators of any
particular specification to decide how open they want their
specification to be</span>."</p>
<p>"If the principle of openness is applied in full:</p>
<ul>
<li><span
style="background:#ffc0cb">All stakeholders can contribute to the elaboration of the
specification and public review is organised</span>;</li>
<li>The specification document is freely available for everybody to
study and to share with others;</li>
<li>The specification can be implemented under the different
software development approaches19.</li>
</ul>
<p>[19] For example using Open Source or proprietary software and
technologies. This also allows providers under various business
models to deliver products, technologies and services based on such
kind of formalised specifications."</p>
</blockquote>
<p>The definition of Open Standards from the first version of the EIF was present in
the consultation document, which also said that "[p]ublic administrations in Europe [...]
should actively support efforts at eliminating proprietary standards". In reaction to the
BSA's comments, the leaked draft totally reverses that position, offering only an extremely
vague description of a "principle of openness", which can either be applied in full or not.</p>
</div>
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>D. EIFv2 Leaked Draft 03/2010</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>The possibility of sharing and re-using components based on formalised specifications depends on the openness of the specifications. If the principle of openness is applied in full:</p>
<ul><li>All stakeholders have the same possibility of contributing to the elaboration of the specification and public review thereof is organised;</li><li>The specification document is freely available for everybody to copy, distribute and use;</li><li>The specification can be freely implemented and shared under different software development approaches (18).</li>
</ul>
<p>[18] For instance, Open Source or proprietary software and technologies. This fosters competition since providers working under various business models may compete to deliver products, technologies and services based on such kind of formalised specifications.</p>
</blockquote>
<p>The current draft does not reflect any improvement over the version of the Document made public on November.</p>
</div>
</div><!--end .clear-->
<hr />
<p>
The 2008 consultation draft spoke of "eliminating the use of proprietary
standards". This provided a clear direction to Member States, showing them
the way to achieve interoperability in their public services
</p>
<p>
At this point, the consultation draft provided a workable definition of
what is considered to be an Open Standard. In the current draft, this
section is stripped down to a factual statement that is so generic as to
be meaningless. This section provides no guidance whatsoever to Member
States.
</p>
<p>
Meanwhile, Free Software ("open source") as a key driver of
interoperability is relegated to a footnote, which is the only occurence
of the term in the entire document. The elimination of Free Software from
the text could not have been more systematic.
</p>
<h2 id="three">3. The Openness Continuum</h2>
<div class="clear">
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>A. Consultation Draft</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>"The difficulty in limiting the selection of standards or
technical specifications only to <span style="background:#d09cf0">the "most
open</span>"<br />
The definition of open standards presented above should be
considered as part of <span style="background:#d09cf0">a broader approach</span>, as openness touches upon
many aspects of the definition, adoption and use of standards or
technical specifications. First of all, openness might address
additional process-related characteristics such as being subject to
a non-discriminatory conformance process.</p>
<p>On the other hand, the characteristics of an open standard or
technical specification, as presented in the previous section,
might be fulfilled by some technical specifications only in part.
It is useful to consider some specific
"shadings" of openness such as
technical specifications that are:</p>
<ul>
<li>"freely available" (meaning that their contents are not
secret),</li>
<li>"available for free" (without charge), or</li>
<li>"free of use restrictions" (i.e., of legal restrictions on
their use).</li>
</ul>
<p>The interest in such additional categorisations is
straightforward: <span style="background:#d09cf0">Open standards or technical specifications are
preferred (for all the reasons given above), but if there is no
suitable, feasible open standard or technical specification, one
can investigate some of the "less
open" alternatives</span>. Whereas the goal is to ensure real
and fair competition through the selection of open standards or
technical specification, it is however <span style="background:#d09cf0">difficult at this time to
limit the selection of standards or technical specifications only
to the "most open"</span> as prevailing
conditions must be taken into account, including the current market
conditions.</p>
<p>However, <span style="background:#d09cf0">such choices must be revisited on a regular basis in
order to ensure that a systematic migration towards the use of open
standards</span> or technical specifications takes place, as quickly as is
practical."</p>
</blockquote>
</div>
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>B. BSA</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>"In defining openness in a manner that is inconsistent with
common industry practice, the EIF v2.0 excludes many <span style="background:#d09cf0">leading
standards</span> widely recognised as open from its scope
including such well-known standards as DVB,
GSM and MP3. (We have attached a list of excluded standards to our
comments at Appendix A). If Member States implement this
definition, they will effectively be restricted from utilizing a
wide range of <span style="background:#d09cf0">leading technologies that implement these popular
standards</span>. This would represent a dramatic shift at national level,
given that virtually every single Member State now has policies
that are far more flexible."</p>
</blockquote>
<p>Against Open Standards and specifications, the BSA promotes "leading or popular standards." It seems difficult to have any relevant guideline or definition about what makes a "leading standard." Moreover, there are no connections in terms of interoperability and competition.</p>
</div>
</div>
<div class="clear">
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>C. EIFv2 Leaked Draft 11/2009</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>"Specifications, software and software development methods that
promote collaboration and the results of which can freely be
accessed, reused and shared are considered open and lie at one end
of the spectrum while <span style="background:#d09cf0">non-documented, proprietary specifications,
proprietary software and the reluctance or resistance to reuse
solutions, i.e. the "not invented here" syndrome, lie at the other
end</span>.</p>
<p>The spectrum of approaches that lies between these two extremes
can be called the openness continuum."</p>
</blockquote>
<p> The consultation document already included the idea of an "openness continuum".
This continuum, however, only covered a range from "open" to "most open". In the leaked draft,
the continuum suddenly includes proprietary standards and specifications.
</p>
<blockquote>
<p>"Within the context of the EIF, openness is the willingness of
persons, organisations or other members of a community of interest
to share knowledge and to stimulate debate within that community of
interest, having as ultimate goal the advancement of knowledge and
the use thereof to solve relevant problems. In that sense, openness
leads to considerable gains in efficiency."</p>
</blockquote>
</div>
<div class="grid-50 left">
<h3>D. EIFv2 Leaked Draft 03/2010</h3>
<blockquote>
<p>Specifications, software and software development methods that promote
collaboration and the results of which can freely be accessed, reused and
shared are considered open and may lead to gains in efficiency, while
non-documented, proprietary specifications, proprietary software and the
reluctance or resistance to reuse solutions, i.e. the "not invented here"
syndrome, are considered closed.</p>
</blockquote>
<blockquote>
<p>Within the context of the EIF, openness is the willingness of persons,
organisations or other members of a community of interest <strong>to freely
share knowledge</strong> and to stimulate debate within that community of
interest, having as ultimate goal the advancement of knowledge and the use
thereof to solve relevant problems. Interoperability involves the sharing of
information and knowledge between interacting organisations, hence implies
openness.</p>
</blockquote>
<p>
The terms "open" and "closed" are used in a manner that is so vague as to
render them essentially meaningless.
</p>
<p>
However, the current draft makes no attempt to highlight that an "open"
approach is preferable to a "closed" one. Even if it did, both terms are
used in a manner that is so vague as to render them essentially
meaningless.
</p>
</div>
</div><!--end .clear-->
<hr />
<p>
By the time the draft of November 2009 became public, this had morphed
into the concept of an "openness continuum", which met with heavy
criticism. As a result, the expression is no longer present in the current
draft, which instead uses simply "open" and "closed".
</p>
<p>
Looking back to the consultation draft, it is obvious that during the
development of EIFv2, the EC has abandoned the concept of Open Standards
as a key enabler for interoperability. This is a central reason why the
current draft would see the European Interoperability Framework become a
shadow of its former self.
</p>
<p><strong>Conclusion:</strong> Based on the above analysis, we can only
conclude that the European Commission is giving strong preference to the
viewpoint of a single lobby group. Regarding interoperability and open
standards, key places of the consultation document were modified to comply
with the demands of the BSA. Input given by other groups was not considered
on this issue. Beyond ignoring this input, the Commission has apparently
decided to ignore the success of the first version of the EIF, and to
abandon its efforts towards actually achieving interoperability in
eGovernment services.</p>
<hr />
<p><a id="not1" href="#anc1">[1]</a>. This is a stark contrast with the
European Commission's policy on this subject. See
<a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/08/317&amp;format=HTML&amp;aged=0&amp;language=EN&amp;guiLanguage=en">
this speech by European Commissioner for Competition, Ms. Neelie Kroes</a>:</p>
<blockquote>“I know a smart business decision when I see one - choosing
open standards is a very smart business decision indeed.”</blockquote>
<p>
<a id="not2" href="#anc2">[2]</a>. Indeed, instead of the vague notion of
"reasonable fee," a nominal one-time fee permits Free Software projects to
implement standards. See as a similar case the
<a href="http://www.samba.org/samba/PFIF/">agreement between Samba and Microsoft</a>.
</p>
</div><!--end .compare-->
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<timestamp>$Date$ $Author$</timestamp>
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<tag>open-standards</tag>
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