Focus on : interoperability

Through the “Focus on” series of article, PEReN proposes elements of technical analysis on a wide variety of topics related to the regulation of online digital platforms. In this first article, PEReN discusses the notion of interoperability and the forms and degrees this notion can cover.

Focus on : interoperability

Through the “Focus on” series of article, PEReN proposes elements of technical analysis on a wide variety of topics related to the regulation of online digital platforms (algorithmic audits, interoperability, etc.). We will try to popularize different solutions or technical arguments around these topics. This series should also foster ideas and analyses among the different actors involved in these questions - companies, institutions, NGOs and civil society members. You can share your contributions and reactions with us through our contact page.

In this first article, PEReN discusses the notion of interoperability, or interoperabilities as this term can cover very different realities. We first define the notion of interoperability, distinguishing it from the neighbour notions of portability and compatibility. We distiguish the models of interoperability between online platforms services according to their aim, interconnecting concurrent services (called “horizontal interoperability”) or interconnecting complementary services (“vertical services”), but also according to the expected degree of interoperability (from simply opening an API endpoint to interconnect services to setting up a common protocol / standard).

The technical solutions at hand and their pros/cons are analyzed along a matrix of goals: ease data migration between concurrent services, ease multi-homing or interconnect complementary services.

An annex details specifically how these core ideas and concepts apply to the context of social medias, a sector in which interoperability is often discussed as being particularly relevant. The PEReN emphasizes that the diversity of platforms in this sector (focused on textual contents vs focused on images, focused on stable content vs focused on ephemeral contents, etc.) as well as the vast amount of personal data at play on these platforms make interoperability particularly challenging to develop. The great potential of differenciation and innovation in this sector pleads for a cautious approach in order not to impose too strong constraints on emerging actors.

These analyses have been contributed by PEReN and Inria to the Inter-administrations taskforce on the europeans Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA) initiatives. The full report is published in french version .