In 2007, the Digistan workgroup started designing a framework for grass-roots development of free and open digital standards. Today Digistan publishes its first specification, COSS, and a reference implementation in the form of a pre-configured wiki.
Digistan founding member Alberto Barrionuevo explains the reasons for COSS: we wanted to offer small teams a fast, cheap, and flexible way to develop their specifications into free and open standards. Setting up a foundation is an important step in a software standard's history, but it's a large step that most small teams can't make.
COSS is a fully-distributed peer-to-peer model. André Rebentisch, who helped build the Digital Standards Organization and COSS, says: each contributor makes a unilateral grant, allowing others to use their work under specific conditions. Those conditions include the right to branch and merge, which is radical for specifications but a much appreciated freedom in the free software community.
The COSS lifecycle defines a specification as a contract between designers, implementers, and users. The weight of the contract depends on where the specification is, in its lifecycle: from raw, to draft, to stable, legacy, and through to retired. COSS editor Pieter Hintjens concludes, this model allows for experimentation, and standardization, which are normally opposed to each other.
Digistan has developed a reference specification, a web site that acts as a template for projects. One such project has already started, the RestMS specification for web messaging.