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It is quite clear that one of the major reasons that the IETF standards have been as successful as they have been is the IETF's open documentation and standards development policies. The IETF is one of the very few major standards organizations that make all of their documents openly available, as well as all of its mailing lists and meetings. In many of the traditional standards organizations, and even in some of the newer Internet-related groups, access to documents and meetings is restricted to members or only available by paying a fee. Sometimes this is because the organizations raise some of the funds to support themselves through the sale of their standards. In other cases it is because the organization has fee-based memberships, and one of the reasons for becoming a member is to be able participate in the standards development process and to get access to the standards as they are being developed.
Restricting participation in the standards development process often results in standards that do not do as good a job of meeting the needs of the user or vendor communities as they might or are more complex than the operator community can reasonably support. Restricting access to work-in-progress documents makes it harder for implementors to understand what the genesis and rational is for specific features in the standard, and this can lead to flawed implementations. Restricting access to the final standards inhibits the ability for students or developers from small startups to understand, and thus make use of, the standards.
The IETF supported the concept of open sources long before the Open Source movement was formed. Up until recently, it was the normal case that ``reference implementations'' of IETF technologies were done as part of the multiple implementations requirement for advancement on the standards track. This has never been a formal part of the IETF process, but it was generally a very useful by-product. Unfortunately this has slowed down somewhat in this age of more complex standards and higher economic implications for standards. The practice has never stopped, but it would be very good if the Open Source movement were to reinvigorate this unofficial part of the IETF standards process.
It may not be immediately apparent, but the availability of open standards processes and documentation is vital to the Open Source movement. Without a clear agreement on what is being worked on, normally articulated in standards documents, it is quite easy for distributed development projects, such as the Open Sources movement, to become fragmented and to flounder. There is an intrinsic partnership between open standards processes, open documentation, and open sources. This partnership produced the Internet and will produce additional wonders in the future.