June 10, 2020 - 9:00am PDT

Join Lincoln Network for a discussion of the different approaches to interoperability, potential policy mechanisms to get us there, and why it’s important for the future of the Internet.


–Cindy Cohn, Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
–Chris Riley, Director of Public Policy at Mozilla
–Charlotte Slaiman, Competition Policy Director at Public Knowledge
–Zach Graves, Head of Policy, Lincoln Network

Most Internet users want the products and services they use to be interoperable. That is, they want them to integrate and work seamlessly with one another. While interoperability is convenient, it also has a positive effect on the broader Internet ecosystem, facilitating competition by allowing users to more easily migrate between competing products.

Don’t like Apple’s email client, or Google’s default web browser? There are dozens of other options to choose from. That’s because both of these operate off of established protocols, which are standards that anyone can use or build off of (an architecture that was common in earlier days of the Web). There are other forms of interoperability, such as cooperative integrations. While our policies used to make it relatively easy to do this without a company’s permission, developments in cybersecurity and intellectual property laws have made it much harder.

With growing concerns about big tech platforms, there have been calls from both conservative and progressive policymakers to encourage or even compel tech companies to follow interoperability standards. However, many open questions remain: Should governments be in the business of dictating API design? Will more interoperability and data portability undermine privacy? Will more open and interoperable platforms be more easily exploited by bad actors? Are policy changes to promote adversarial interoperability politically viable given likely opposition? Can’t the free market just sort it out?