What are open technologies?
Open technologies is an umbrella term that includes open source software, open standards, and open hardware.
The Open Source Initiative, a non-profit corporation, offers a complete definition of open source on its Web site (http://www.opensource.org/docs/definition_plain.html). The key element is that the distribution terms of open source software must comply with the following criteria:
- Free redistribution
- Source code is included
- The license must allow modifications and derived works
- The integrity of the author's source code is maintained
- No discrimination against persons or groups
- No discrimination against fields of endeavor
- The rights attached to the program must apply to all to whom the program is redistributed
- Licenses must not be specific to a product
- Licenses must not restrict other software
- Licenses must be technology-neutral
Usually open source software is distributed for free, although vendors can charge for their versions of open software and for technical support. Changes to open source code remain "open" even through subsequent redistribution. Open source software is different from "public domain" whose copyright is held by the public and "freeware" or "shareware" which are applications that are distributed in some form for free but whose source code is held by the author and cannot be freely changed or redistributed.
Most users of open source software, such as Linux or Open Office, rarely touch the source code. Instead they use the compiled final open source application.
Open standards refers to the conventions and rules for interoperability and data exchange that are established by widely recognized standards bodies, such as the Schools Interoperability Framework Association (SIFA), the IMS Global Learning Consortium and Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) (SCORM). Standards provide specific methods for connecting, tagging, and exchanging information. Additionally, open standards such as HTML have provided the genesis of our current network environment - the Internet. Open source software may be - but is not required to be - open standards compliant.
School technology leaders must examine all software including open source and proprietary systems to determine if each is open-standards compliant and if it is relevant to their needs for data exchange.
Open hardware refers to computers and other devices that run open-standards-based software. Examples of this would include products such as the Nokia 770 Internet Tablet which relies on a Linux-based tablet operating system and new routers using XORP, the eXtensible Open Router Platform.