Example Standards

For the purposes of this list, open standards are those which fulfill our definition.

Open Standards

Some widely use examples.

The UK government, when adopting its open standards mandate, selected a set of open standards for common software domains.

Fauxpen Standards

There are a number of well known, widely used formats which we do not consider to fulfill the necessary criteria to be "open standards" despite the fact that most people assume them to be open standards. In many cases, commercial entities with vested interests actively promote these as open standards even though, for all practical purposes, they are not.

For example, some are encumbered by patents and/or require royalty payments to implement. Others, though accepted by standards bodies like ISO, are still unilaterally controlled by a single vendor. Still others are used to describe software products which do not completely comply with the strict standard specification, instead conforming to a "transitional" or non-compliant version of the standard. Examples of fauxpen standards include:

  • Microsoft's "Office Open XML" format family (also known as OOXML or, misleadingly, as "Open XML"): DOCX (text documents), XLSX (spreadsheets), PPTX (presentations), DOTX (templates) - no version of MS Office currently provides files which are fully compliant with the format. Moreover, though complex arrangements, MS can change this horrendously complex and arcane standard unilaterally, meaning it does not meet with our minimum requirements for an open standard.
  • Fraunhofer Institute's MP3 format: music files, lossy compression - still patent encumbered in the US. Update: turns out the patents have now expired.

Proprietary (Closed) Standards

These are standards which are unilaterally controlled by a single entity, usually a multinational US-based corporation.

  • Adobe's Creative Suite default file formats: PSD and AI
  • Adobe's Flash: a "rich content" framework for the web which was ubiquitous as a web-browser plug-in to provide rich media like videos and interactive maps until similar functionality was introduced in the HTML5 open standard, and Apple (for its own strategic reasons) chose not to allow Flash to run on its iOS devices (iPod, iPad, iPhone, etc.), effectively killing it in the marketplace.
  • Microsoft's Office legacy formats: DOC (text documents), XLS (spreadsheets), PPT (presentations), MDB (Access "database" files)
  • Microsoft's Silverlight "rich content" framework for the World Wide Web, competing with Adobe's Flash: note, this is a poster child for the fate of businesses who choose to adopt a proprietary (closed) standards on which to base their independent software products. Microsoft "deprecated" Silverlight in favour of the open standard HTML5 due, largely, to market resistance to its adoption.
  • Microsoft's Windows Media Player Audio and Video formats: WMP and WMV.
  • RealNetwork's RealPlayer formats for audio and video
  • Apple's QuickTime formats for audio and video compression
  • Apple's ALAC and AAC lossless and lossy audio compression codecs and associated formats
  • AutoDesk's AutoCAD format: DWG
  • ESRI Shapefiles for representing GIS data