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ISO standards are not free

  • W3C standards are free to read. They are specifications for HTML, CSS, browsers API, protocols, anything web…
  • TC39 specifications are free to read. They are for JavaScript.
  • ISO standards are not free to read. They are for an incredible amount of things.

There’s even a FAQ entry for that on the ISO website:

Why is there a charge for standards?

Developing, publishing and maintaining ISO standards incurs a cost, and revenues from selling them helps ISO and its members to cover an important part of these costs. Charging for standards allows us to ensure that they are developed in an impartial environment and therefore meet the needs of all stakeholders for which the standard is relevant. This is essential if standards are to remain effective in the real world. ISO and its members offer a number of options to access ISO standards.

I understand creating quality standards require a favorable environment, making them expansive, with the financing being a mix of public and private contributions, but as an individual who wants to understand how a web spec makes use of an ISO standard, there’s no way I can spend so much money each time I’m interested in a specification. In the case of the ISO 8601 spec, it’s CHF 166 + CHF 17 + CHF 187, so that’s 383 €, not counting the under development extension.

Standards should be part of the commons, otherwise it’s as dumb as the scientific publications business.