The Building Blocks of The Internet with Bron Gondwana

In this podcast blog post about season one episode four of Digital Citizen, Fastmail CEO Bron Gondwana discusses why open internet standards are so important to your future.

Who is Bron Gondwana?

Bron has been working with Fastmail for over 18 years and in the email space for over 20 years. He is chair of the email and calendar working groups at the Internet Engineering Task Force, IETF. He is deeply involved in the Cyrus IMAP email server and works on further developing JMAP as an alternative open-source email server.

Also a devoted father, singer, and fitness instructor, Bron is passionate about data privacy and encourages using open standards online.

What Are Open Standards and Why Do They Matter?

To understand Open Standards, consider the various types of standards in our world. Language, technology, and so much more expand upon previously accepted standards. For example, you can plug in a lamp made over 50 years ago into the electrical socket at your brand-new house, and it will still work the same. That is because products and electricity are created according to specific predetermined standards. This ensures they will continue to work as advancements in technology arise.

Open Standards are the building blocks of the internet. They are available to the general public and are developed, approved, and maintained by a collaborative and consensus-driven process. So, there is no official rulebook for how open standards are created, but developers and code writers come together to create and then build off of open standards. Expanding upon open standards allows developers to create products that can be used and shared across servers, devices, and more.

The Future of Email and Open Standards

Email has been an open standard application since the 1970s. However, many large companies are beginning to step away from using open standards. When they create online products without open standards, it makes it harder for competing companies or services to create products that interoperate. Thus, users at the bigger companies have no choice but to only use products created by that company. If a user ever wants to switch providers or services, their data is at risk of not transferring correctly or being lost completely.

The Fastmail team, in collaboration with the Internet Engineering Task Force, has developed JMAP: JSON Meta Application Protocol. JMAP is an open email standard. It’s a developer-friendly API (Application Programming Interface) allowing innovation among modern email clients.

Digital Citizenship and Open Standards

According to Bron, being a better digital citizen is about leaving something better than you found it. Using open standards when creating programs and products makes your services accessible and gives them longevity. Building upon open standards makes innovation possible.

He emphasizes how important it is to research whether your products or services are built with/interoperate with open standards. Knowing about open standards can help you make better choices regarding which products you want to use online and keep your data safe.

Want to Hear More?

Listen to our full conversation with Bron!

Don’t forget to listen to other episodes of Digital Citizen to hear from more amazing guests about technology, community, digital citizenship, and more!

Do you want to learn even more about how Open Standards work? Listen to Bron’s interview with Cyber24!


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