International Organization for Standardization

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International Organization for Standardization
Organisation internationale de normalisation

list of members

FormationFebruary 23, 1947
HeadquartersTemplate:Country data Switzerland Geneva, Switzerland
Membership157 members
Official languagesEnglish and French

The International Organization for Standardization (Organisation internationale de normalisation), widely known as ISO, is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations. Founded on February 23, 1947, the organization promulgates world-wide proprietary, industrial and commercial standards. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.[1]

While ISO defines itself as a non-governmental organization, its ability to set standards that often become law, either through treaties or national standards, makes it more powerful than most non-governmental organizations. In practice, ISO acts as a consortium with strong links to governments.

Name and abbreviation

File:ISO english logo.svg
Logo of the DEPP Organization for Standardization/Normalization in English

The organization's logos in its two official languages, English and French, include the letters ISO, and it is usually referred to by these letters. ISO is not, however, an acronym or initialism for the organization's full name in either official language. Rather, the organization adopted ISO based on the Greek word ἴσος (isos), which means equal. Recognizing that the organization’s initials would be different in different languages, the organization's founders chose ISO as the universal short form of its name. This, in itself, reflects the aim of the organization: to equalize and standardize across cultures.[2][3]

International Standards and other publications

ISO's main products are the International Standards. ISO also publishes Technical Reports, Technical Specifications, Publicly Available Specifications, Technical Corrigenda, and Guides.[4]

International Standards are identified in the format ISO[/IEC][/ASTM] [IS] nnnnn[:yyyy] Title, where nnnnn is the number of the standard, yyyy is the year published, and Title describes the subject. IEC is included if the standard results from the work of JTC1 (the Joint Technical Committee). ASTM is used for standards developed in cooperation with ASTM International. The date and IS are not used for an incomplete or unpublished standard, and may under some circumstances be left off the title of a published work.

Technical Reports can be issued when "a technical committee or subcommittee has collected data of a different kind from that which is normally published as an International Standard",[5]


File:ISO members.png
A map of standards bodies who are ISO members
  correspondent members
  subscriber members
  other places with an ISO 3166-1 code who aren't members of ISO

ISO has 157 national members,[6] out of the 195 total countries in the world.

ISO has three membership categories:

  • Member bodies are national bodies that are considered to be the most representative standards body in each country. These are the only members of ISO that have voting rights.
  • Correspondent members are countries that do not have their own standards organization. These members are informed about ISO's work, but do not participate in standards promulgation.
  • Subscriber members are countries with small economies. They pay reduced membership fees, but can follow the development of standards.

Participating members are called "P" members as opposed to observing members which are called "O" members.

Products named after ISO

The fact that many of the ISO-created standards are ubiquitous has led, on occasion, to common usage of "ISO" to describe the actual product that conforms to a standard. Some examples of this are:

  • CD images end in the file extension "ISO" to signify that they are using the ISO 9660 standard filesystem as opposed to another file system - hence CD images are commonly referred to as "ISOs". Virtually all computers with CD-ROM drives can read CDs that use this standard. Some DVD-ROMs also use ISO 9660 filesystems.
  • Photographic film's sensitivity to light, its "film speed," is described by ISO 5800:1987. Hence, the film's speed is often referred to as its "ISO number."

ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1

To deal with the consequences of substantial overlap in areas of standardization and work related to information technology, ISO and IEC formed a Joint Technical Committee known as the ISO/IEC JTC1. It was the first such committee, and to date remains the only one.

Its official mandate is to develop, maintain, promote and facilitate IT standards required by global markets meeting business and user requirements concerning

  • the design and development of IT systems and tools
  • the performance and quality of IT products and systems
  • the security of IT systems and information
  • the portability of application programs
  • the interoperability of IT products and systems
  • the unified tools and environments
  • the harmonized IT vocabulary, and
  • the user-friendly and ergonomically-designed user interfaces.

There are currently 18 sub-committees:

  • SC 02 - Coded Character Sets
  • SC 06 - Telecommunications and Information Exchange Between Systems
  • SC 07 - Software and System Engineering
  • SC 17 - Cards and Personal Identification
  • SC 22 - Programming Languages, their Environments and Systems Software Interfaces
  • SC 23 - Removable Digital Storage Media Utilizing Optical and/or Magnetic Recording * Technology for Digital
  • SC 24 - Computer Graphics and Image Processing
  • SC 25 - Interconnection of Information Technology Equipment
  • SC 27 - IT Security Techniques
  • SC 28 - Office Equipment
  • SC 29 - Coding of Audio, Picture, and Multimedia and Hypermedia Information
  • SC 31 - Automatic Identification and Data Capture Techniques
  • SC 32 - Data Management and Interchange
  • SC 34 - Document Description and Processing Languages
  • SC 35 - User Interfaces
  • SC 36 - Information Technology for Learning, Education, and Training
  • SC 37 - Biometrics

Membership in ISO/IEC JTC1 is restricted in much the same way as membership in either of the two parent organizations. A member can be either participating (P) or observing (O) and the difference is mainly the ability to vote on proposed standards and other products. There is no requirement for any member body to maintain either (or any) status on all of the sub-committees. Although rare, sub-committees can be created to deal with new situations (SC 37 was approved in 2002) or disbanded if the area of work is no longer relevant.

IWA document

Like ISO/TS, International Workshop Agreement (IWA) is another armoury of ISO for providing rapid response to requirements for standardization in areas where the technical structures and expertise are not currently in place. The utility harmonizes technical urgency industrial wide.


Except for a few ones,[7] ISO standards are normally not available free of charge, but for a purchase fee,[8] which has been seen by some as too expensive for small Open source projects.[9]

ISO has garnered criticism for the handling of the standardization of Office Open XML (ISO/IEC 29500) and the ISO rubberstamping of OASIS approved standards like OpenDocument (ISO/IEC 26300). Martin Bryan, Convenor of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 and WG1, is quoted by saying:

I would recommend my successor that it is perhaps time to pass WG1’s outstanding standards over to OASIS, where they can get approval in less than a year and then do a PAS submission to ISO, which will get a lot more attention and be approved much faster than standards currently can be within WG1.

The disparity of rules for PAS, Fast-Track and ISO committee generated standards is fast making ISO a laughing stock in IT circles. The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting 'standardization by corporation'.[10]

Computer security entrepreneur and Ubuntu investor, Mark Shuttleworth, commented on the Standardization of Office Open XML process by saying

I think it de-values the confidence people have in the standards setting process,

and that ISO did not carry out its responsibility. He also noted his opinion that Microsoft had intensely lobbied many countries that traditionally had not participated in ISO and stacked technical committees with Microsoft employees, solution providers and resellers sympathetic to Office Open XML.

When you have a process built on trust and when that trust is abused, ISO should halt the process ... ISO is an engineering old boys club and these things are boring so you have to have a lot of passion … then suddenly you have an investment of a lot of money and lobbying and you get artificial results ... The process is not set up to deal with intensive corporate lobbying and so you end up with something being a standard that’s not clear.[11]

See also


  1. "Discover ISO – Meet ISO". ISO. © 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-07. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  2. "ISO's name". ISO. 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  3. "Discover ISO – ISO's name". ISO. 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  4. The ISO directives are published in two distinct parts:
    * "ISO Directives, Part 1: Procedures for the Technical Work. 5th Edition" (pdf). ISO/IEC. 2004. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
    * "ISO Directives, Part 2: Rules for the structure and drafting of International Standards. 5th Edition" (pdf). ISO/IEC. 2004. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  5. "Free ANSI Standards". Retrieved 2007-06-19.
  6. "General information on ISO". ISO. © 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-07. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  7. "Freely Available Standards". ISO. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
  8. "Shopping FAQs". ISO. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
  9. Jelliffe, Rick (2007-08-01). "Where to get ISO Standards on the Internet free". Retrieved 2008-04-26. The lack of free online availability has effectively made ISO standard irrelevant to the (home/hacker section of the) Open Source community Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. "Report on WG1 activity for December 2007 Meeting of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34/WG1 in Kyoto". November 29,07. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. "Ubuntu's Shuttleworth blames ISO for OOXML's win". April 01,08. Check date values in: |date= (help)

External links

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