Our Work

Open Standards

Open Standards allow people to share all kinds of data freely and with perfect fidelity. They prevent lock-in and other artificial barriers to interoperability, and promote choice between vendors and technology solutions. FSFE pushes for the adoption of Open Standards to promote free competition in the IT market, as they ensure that people find it easy to migrate to Free Software or between Free Software solutions.


The relevance of Open Standards is closely linked to networking effects, and has consequently been rising dramatically. The reward for gaming the system for proprietary vendors is increasing, so is the cost for users of software.

Governments, public interest NGOs, including groups that are concerned about freedom of competition or consumer rights are generally strong proponents of Open Standards. Typical critics are the proprietary software vendors and those that represent their interests. One of the items that critics seek to highlight is the inherent conflict between innovation and standardisation.

Standardisation deliberately limits changes to a technological basis, including innovation. These limits are introduced in order to allow subsequent innovation by everyone that has access to the standard and not just the party that controls the technological basis. So standards limit the ability to innovate by a single party in order to allow innovation on the basis of that standard by multiple parties.

Open Standards allow such innovation by all parties with no leverage for the initial developer of the platform to limit such innovation or the competition it represents.

FSFE's goals include freedoms from lock-in, of innovation and competition for everyone. That is why FSFE is a strong supporter of Open Standards.


Publications at the IGF

Publications on MS-OOXML

EU jeopardises its own goals in standardisation with FRAND licensing

28 April 2016:

On 19 April, the European Commission published a communication on "ICT Standardisation Priorities for the Digital Single Market" (hereinafter 'the Communication'). The Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy intends to digitise industries with several legislative and political initiatives, and the Communication is a part of it covering standardisation. In general, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) welcomes the Communication's plausible approach for integrating Free Software and Open Standards into standardisation but expresses its concerns about the lack of understanding of necessary prerequisites to pursue that direction.

Joint statement : Maximising inclusiveness and engagement through the use of Open Standards in the European Commission

25 March 2015:

Today is Document Freedom Day, the international day to celebrate and raise awareness of Open Standards. On this occasion, we would like to reflect on the importance for public institutions in general, and for the European Commission in particular, considering its leadership role, of using Open Standards in all their digital communication and services.

FSFE responds to EU consultation on patents and standards

18 February 2015:

In order to push for a more enlightened policy approach to managing innovation and knowledge, FSFE has submitted a response [pdf] to an EU consultation on patents and standards. This is the latest action in FSFE's ongoing work in promoting Open Standards.

Study: To ensure transparency, European Parliament must adopt Free Software, Open Standards

12 December 2014:

A study released on Friday says that the European Parliament must adopt Free Software and Open Standards in order to fulfil its transparency obligations. The authors conclude that "the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament should whenever possible make Free Software and Open Standards mandatory for all systems and data used for the work of Parliament."

[Blog] FSFE comments at European Parliament's DG ITEC conference

20 November 2014:

At a meeting in the European Parliament, FSFE's president Karsten Gerloff highlighted several ways in which the Parliament could become more transparent, and make better use of Free Software and Open Standards.

In a short intervention, he urged the Parliament to finally make its live streams accessible to Free Software users. He asked the Parliament's IT administration to enable IMAP access on its mail servers to allow Free Software users to connect through standard protocols, and warned the Parliament to avoid lock-in as it progresses towards greater digitisation.