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UK Takes Huge Step Forward On Open Standards 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the setting-the-example dept.
jrepin sends this news from the FSF Europe site: "The UK government is certainly taking a long and winding road towards Free Software and Open Standards. The UK's public sector doesn't use a lot of Free Software, and many smaller Free Software companies have found it comparatively hard to get public sector buyers for their products and services. The main reason is that government agencies at all levels are locked into proprietary, vendor-specific file formats. ... The UK government has released a new Open Standards policy. With this policy (PDF), and in particular with its strong definition of Open Standards, the UK government sets an example that governments elsewhere should aspire to,' says Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. Under the new policy, effective immediately, patents that are essential to implementing a standard must be licensed without royalties or restrictions that would prevent their implementation in Free Software."
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UK Takes Huge Step Forward On Open Standards

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  • by TWX (665546) on Friday November 02, 2012 @05:03PM (#41858463)
    ...when companies do not wish to give up their proprietary information. After all, they went with a proprietary format specifically give them the advantage with vendor-lockin in the first place.
    • by dotbot (2030980)
      Expect lawsuits...? How can a company sue a prospective customer because the customer is not asking for what they want to sell?
      • by sumdumass (711423)

        They will sue the government claiming a taking of their product. this would have more weight in the US where there are constitutional requirements for just compensation.

        It also would never happen in the US as certain leaders in the
        free software movement decided to take political stands and the opposition parties would claim graft or some other BS and refuse to support it by default.

    • by Smauler (915644)

      What? Seriously, the 6th biggest economy in the the world is advocating open standards, and you say expect lawsuits to shut them down......

      The point about open standards is that they're... open. They don't infringe upon anyone. That's kind of the point. Open standards don't need companies to give up their proprietary information. Or did you miss that point.... ie. the whole idea behind open standards.

      Good luck with the lawsuits...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Take a look at I.T.I.L. another very good example of the UK Gov doing it right.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I predict that a probable line of attack on this measure is to complain about this being an anticompetitive measure that throws out otherwise perfectly valid tenders/bids/proposals "unfairly."

    Never underestimate private sector willingness to abuse public policy in its own interest.

  • And? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Desler (1608317)

    and many smaller Free Software companies have found it comparatively hard to get public sector buyers for their products and services.

    Maybe because some of them have a terrible product and services? Just because your a FOSS company doesn't mean your owed the business of the government. Not everything is a "M$" conspiracy.

    • Re:And? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Microlith (54737) on Friday November 02, 2012 @05:25PM (#41858765)

      Maybe because some of them have a terrible product and services?

      Or maybe it's not that at all? But it has to be what you suggest. It can't possibly be anything else.

      Just because your a FOSS company doesn't mean your owed the business of the government.

      No one is owed that business. But it's hard to get those contracts when the incumbent holds all the secrets to the document format in use.

      Not everything is a "M$" conspiracy.

      Because Microsoft totally hasn't manipulated standards bodies and harassed politicians who have pressed for open standards.

    • "Maybe because some of them have a terrible product and services?"

      You are probably at least partly right. The interesting question is *why*.

      Might it be because when you are out of big contracts by default you lack the money to build a proper product/service?

      I now most of the big usual contenders have terrible product and services too. With luck, sometimes, their products and services become from terrible to hardly beareable (and utterly expensive and heavily entrenched by lock-in practices) after some ite

    • This is more about using open standards rather than FOSS companies. There's nothing to prevent any company, FOSS or proprietary, from using open standards. This way, they can choose the best product (and company) and not be locked in forever due to ridiculous proprietary "standards" that only one company can use.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've worked in local government in London since the early 90s and its been basically Microsoft and proprietary software or nothing. In the pre-NT days, when network file servers were mainly Netware and there was a smattering of big iron Unix for green screen type applications you might have got away with a BSD based firewall or DNS server but that was about it. I've recently left and there was one Linux server in the data center - a lone NTP server.

    The people that run these kinds of IT departments are very

    • Government is little different in my part of the world. My company has a contract with a government agency that uses a Siebel-based case management system (if Siebel weren't bad enough, this one is customized), and it runs best in IE6, with increasing issues with the compatibility modes in IE7, IE8 and IE9. Supposedly there is a browser-independent front end coming out some day, but until then we are literally stuck with having to use IE 8 and 9 with low security mode and using Siebel's ActiveX controls (ye

      • Siebel is IBM. There's a saying "you won't get sacked for picking IBM", same is true of Microsoft. At the executive level where these things are decided the choice of vendor has little or nothing to do with the quality of the software, they believe quality is something that can be enforced with contractual penalties. Their choice may not turn out to be all rainbows and unicorn farts for "we the code monkeys", but choosing from the market leaders is sound risk management from a business POV.

        Governments ha
        • Siebel is owned by Oracle [oracle.com].

        • by Bert64 (520050)

          Buying a proprietary system from a single supplier is actually terrible risk management, where is your second source? what happens if that supplier goes bankrupt, or discontinues the product etc?
          On the other hand, if every supplier has to comply with the same standards then it makes some sense to go with the market leader, as you still have all the other options as second sources.

    • Re:I'm sceptical (Score:5, Insightful)

      by trewornan (608722) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:07PM (#41859969)
      Nothing's changed and this policy is meaningless until the Cabinet Office releases the guidelines for applying for an exemption. Every dept purchasing an IT system will trump up some half assed excuse and apply unless there are some serious restrictions imposed by the Cabinet Office.
    • Re:I'm sceptical (Score:4, Informative)

      by Smauler (915644) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @02:21AM (#41862735)

      Local government is notoriously backward and inefficient in the UK. It's one of these institutions which is stuck in the 70's in terms of product decisions in some places. They've updated some practices but not others.

      National government has gone the other way. IT projects are almost uniformly outsourced, on a massive scale, and cost billions because of private sector profiteering and inefficiency. The NHS database has cost about 15 billion so far for something no one really wanted. That's a few hundred pound every man, woman, and child of the UK pays each, for that project. No, I'm not bitter.

      ps. I'm also a massive fan of local government and the nhs, and am very glad they are there - I just hate the things they get so obviously wrong.

    • Yes, but that is changing quickly. I expect the UK to be less advanced in that respect and catch up soon.
  • by ZG-Rules (661531) on Friday November 02, 2012 @05:47PM (#41859031) Homepage

    Hi,

    The main UK Government Website is built in the open, using open-source tools where possible:

    Code: https://github.com/alphagov [github.com]
    Blog Post: http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/govuk-launch-colophon/ [cabinetoffice.gov.uk]

    Disclaimer: I work for them ;o)

    --
    ZG-Rules

    • by twokay (979515)
      Thanks, i had no idea, very interesting.
    • Thanks, if I hadn't posted elsewhere I would give you a karma cookie. I particularly like how the introduction makes it clear it's a "work in progress". Your links put the lie to the anti-government hyperbole that flies like monkey turds around the internet, I don't work for government and never have, but the vast majority of government workers I've met over my 35yr working life have been involved in providing essential infrastructure and useful services.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      FWIW, from the metoo dep't., the US uses Drupal left and right, which however you feel about it is exceptionally open.

    • UK is also the leader in the Open Data movement, they could expand thatz to open standards.
  • Just wondering if this includes the BBC in its mandate?

    I, for one, would LOVE all BBC offerings to be using patent-unencumbered codecs, etc. Of course, this could have a negative impact on license deals between the BBC and private media, but the BBC is big enough that I think it would win after the first few skirmishes.

    • by king neckbeard (1801738) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:52PM (#41860557)
      I don't think the BBC is technically part of the UK government. It's autonomous in a lot of ways, although it's been a while since the exact nature was explained to me.
      • by isorox (205688) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:33AM (#41862379) Homepage Journal

        I don't think the BBC is technically part of the UK government. It's autonomous in a lot of ways, although it's been a while since the exact nature was explained to me.

        The BBC is funded by a license fee, which is paid for directly by everyone in the UK that watches TV. The BBC's budget is controlled by the government and agreed every 10 years.

        It's free of direct government control, so for example released damning material into the Iraq War, and reported an accusation that the government "sexed up" the case for war, and that WMDs did not exist. The BBC was later proven 100% correct.

        The event, partly due to a cock-up by a BBC reporter, led to a scientist's death. There was a government inquiry by a government stooge that found in favour of the government over the whole affair. This led to the enforced resignation of the head of the BBC (who had been on holiday at the time of the incident).

        Since then, the BBC has kow-towed to the government and lost much of it's teeth where it really mattered.

        The license-fee part of the BBC has also been forced to take on funding of the BBC World Service and BBC Monitoring (which were always government funded, although in the former case, editorially independent and trusted to tell the truth around the world by everyone from sheep herders to jihadists).

        The BBC Boss since the Hutton affair, Mark Thompson, recently left to become a Murdoch stooge (his reward for damaging the BBC as much as he did). The new DG, George Entwistle, has dropped into position in the middle of the whole Saville controversy in a "don't you dare try to shake anything up" style thing. Amazing timing.

        On top of the fear of government (especially when Labour and Peter Mandleson were still in power), the BBC's journalism has suffered recently due to a dumbing down of output. It's the same across the industry. They're trying to produce too much materia, with too little

        Leading BBC journalists, speaking privately yesterday, called for radical reform of the BBC's News division, claiming it had become afraid of running difficult stories. "There is a general timidity about broadcasting anything that's controversial," said one senior figure. "We have got to have a sense of devilment and we don't have that at all." [independent.co.uk]

        The BBC has amazing correspondents, but the culture at the head is the biggest problem.

        Jeremy Bowen, a middle-east expert, was recently criticised for spending too much time in the middle east during the Arab spring. Their knowledge rarely makes it out on mainstream BBC News, you sometimes get some good programs like "Reporters", and the occasional Newsnight and Radio 4 program, but even the 1/6/10 doesn't scratch the in-depth knowledge of the BBC's overseas correspondents.

    • by Smauler (915644)

      There was Dirac, a long time ago, that they were planning to use.... but that died a death. Not sure how willing they would be to fund another project of the same kind.

      I think you're confusing patent-unencumbered codecs with license deals. The private media don't care how content is delivered, as long as they can control it. The people who control it aren't all that big players, as long as it works.

      • There was Dirac, a long time ago, that they were planning to use.... but that died a death. Not sure how willing they would be to fund another project of the same kind.

        I think you're confusing patent-unencumbered codecs with license deals. The private media don't care how content is delivered, as long as they can control it. The people who control it aren't all that big players, as long as it works.

        Actually, I was referring to the Dirac fiasco -- Dirac died because the private media wanted a controllable codec with DRM bundled in and closed-source players to protect the DRM. Without this, the private media didn't want to provide content to the BBC. Eventually the BBC complied, and Dirac died.

        So, with the codec AND the player being legislated to be more open, we'd likely see all of this go around again, but with stronger government support -- IF this legislation applies to the BBC.

  • So I guess this means they will drop H264/Silverlight?
  • Considering they released the policy document in a proprietary postscript-esque format... it uses PDF version 1.5 with Adobe-specific extensions.

    Source: the linked PDF, Acrobat X Reader 10.1.4 Document Properties page

What ever you want is going to cost a little more than it is worth. -- The Second Law Of Thermodynamics

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