Market-driven Challenges to Open Internet Standards

GCIG Paper No. 33

May 20, 2016

The success of the Internet as a dynamic foundation for building an enormous variety of interactive services depends on interoperability, open standards and the ability to innovate freely and provide services without permission, all of which arise from its edge-oriented architecture.

This paper establishes some of the basic Internet principles that have enabled innovation and interoperability, such as globally unique identifiers and open technical standards. It explains how market economy forces have shaped the evolution of Internet standards, including a resurgence of proprietary and anti-competitive approaches. The paper warns about specific market-driven trends that threaten to erode the Internet’s openness, trends that will only accelerate in the context of the Internet of Things and cloud computing. Finally, the paper makes recommendations for reversing the trend toward fragmentation through the use of open-standard protocols, the development of application programming interfaces as if they were protocols, the use of open standards processes and the use of public procurement to encourage openness.

Part of Series

Global Commission on Internet Governance Paper Series

The Global Commission on Internet Governance was established in January 2014 to articulate and advance a strategic vision for the future of Internet governance. The two-year project conducted and supported independent research on internet-related dimensions of global public policy, culminating in an official commission report that articulates concrete policy recommendations for the future of Internet governance.

About the Author

Patrik Fältström is the head of Engineering, Research and Development at Netnod. He has previously served in leadership roles at the Internet Engineering Task Force, Internet Architecture Board and Internet Society (1998–2009); he was a distinguished engineer at Cisco Systems and has worked at Tele2 in Sweden, the Swedish Navy and Bunyip in Canada.