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What is an "open platform"?

Whatis an open platform[1]?

A platform is anything thatcan be used to work or build on top of it. In case of software platforms, theyoffer a set of services that ease application development when used.

A software platform iscalled open if it has one or more of the following characteristics:

1.    OpenAPI: The ApplicationProgramming Interface (API) of a software platform specifies the interfacesavailable for developing applications on top of the platform, along withguidelines how to use them. An Open API is well documented and available foruse by application developers.

Control question: Does theplatform implement published and fully documented external applicationprogramming interfaces?

2.    OpenScope(extensibility): Open Scope refers to the capability of using the platform forpurposes it wasn’t planned for, resulting in extensible systems. The scope of aplatform determines the extent of  the platform’s applicability, in the senseof degree of freedom in the development of applications on top of it; thehigher this degree of freedom, the opener the scope of the platform. Anotherway to look at it is the limitations that the platform imposes to theapplications on top of it (e.g., only for a narrow domain).

Control question: To what extent(e.g., unlimited, widely unlimited, limited, widely limited) can a third partyuse the Open API to add not a-priori planned functionality without requiringmodification of the source code?

3.    Open Source: Open Sourcerefers to the availability of the source code of a piece of software in a givenprogramming language with a license in which the copyright holders provide therights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for anypurpose[2].There are different open source licensing models with different degrees offreedom in change, usage and distribution of the software in source or binaryforms. An open platform does not mean it is open source, however most Open APIshave also open source implementations, resulting in open source platforms.Obviously, open source platforms do provide an Open API.

Control question: Is thesource code of the platform available with a recognized open source licensingmodel?

4.    OpenUsage (adoptability):Adoptability refers to enabling others to use the open platform while bypassingspecific business development negotiations. This does not necessarily mean thatthe usage has to be royalty-free; it is rather about published, clear, andgenerally applicable (non-discriminatory) terms and conditions, usually knownas the license. There are a number of “usage types” that are important fordetermining the degree of openness of a platform: (1) Open Development,which is about enabling others to benefit from the Open API and Open Scope and buildupon the platform[3];(2) Open Provision, which is about enabling others to bundle theplatform with a host platform (in terms of hardware / operating system) and provide the resulting bundle to their customers; and finally (3) Open Operation,which is about enabling others to use a piece of software in operation.

Control question: Doesusage necessitate a specific business development negotiation?

5.    Openadaptation(adaptability)[4]:Assuming that the specifications are publicly available, adaptability of anopen platform refers to the possibility of changing existing functionalityof the platform itself as opposed to adding new functionality (which wasalready addressed under Open Scope). Important aspects of adaptability of openplatforms are related to the possibilities for (1) changing the source code ofthe platform in order to adapt it to specific requirements (which may work onlyin case of open source platforms), and (2) excluding certain modules and, inparticular, substituting them with other implementations that are for somereason a better fit to the context of use.

Control question: Does theplatform allow developers to change existing functionality?

The following comparison ofthe most widely spread open operating systems should help to better understandthese definitions by example[5]:

Table 1.Comparison of operating systems

 

 

 

Adoptability

 

 

API

Scope

Source

Develop

Provide

Operate

Adaptability

Android

Open

Unlimited

ASL 2.0

Open

Open

Open

Open

iOS

Open

Unlimited

Closed

Closed

Closed

Open

Closed

Linux

Open

Unlimited

GPLv2

Open

Open

Open

Open

Mac OS

Open

Unlimited

Closed

Open

Closed

Open

Closed

Windows

Open

Unlimited

Closed

Open

Open

Open

Closed

 

Related:Assessing the openness of universAAL IoT


[1] Inspired by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_platform and http://www.innovationinthecrowd.com/open-platform/,sometimes reusing complete sentences and phrases from them.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open-source_software

[3] This is actually almost a prerequisite for a platform in order tocall it an “open platform”.

[4] Not related to controlled adaptability by a pre-defined set ofconfiguration and customization parameters.

[5] Inspired by http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1264012.



 

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