ISOC: Open Source Interfaces for Digital Platforms

Open Source and Digital Platforms

Published on: 22/12/2020

A white paper from the Internet Society identifies open source as a way of increasing competition in the internet platform market through interoperability.

That open source plays an important role in enabling interoperability between systems and services is an established aspect in digital policy discussions. It is, for example, present in almost all digital government strategies of the last few years. Now, in their white paper, ‘Considerations for Mandating Open Interfaces’, the Internet Society makes a link between interoperability through open source and the much-discussed concerns around competition in the digital platforms market.

In the context of the EU’s proposed Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA), as well as in other efforts around the world, regulators have shown increased interest in mandating open interfaces “as potential solutions to the current concentration of market power among a small number of large technology companies.”

The white paper states that this “mandating of open interfaces is important, because – done well – it brings economic, social, and technical benefits, reduces the risk of market failure and stimulates sustainable innovation.”

Open source becomes a consideration when discussing which model should be utilised to develop a potential regulatory standard. The authors argue that open source could be used instead of using a requirements-led standardisation model, commonly used in markets and industries where interoperability is essential such as in the mobile phone industry, or, its alternative, an implementation-led standardisation model.

In the authors’ view, choosing open source as the approach “would be a way to require openness without committing to a specific model.”

While there is no mention of open source in the DSA or the DMA, it is noteworthy that the Internet Society makes the connection between what is an established approach in for example the interoperability between digital government services and the regulatory effort that is the most discussed at the moment, with potential repercussions across the globe.