International Organization for Standardization

"ISO" redirects here. For other uses, see ISO (disambiguation).
International Organization for Standardization[1]
Organisation internationale de normalisation  (French)

ISO membership (see below)
Abbreviation ISO
Formation 23 February 1947
Type Non-governmental organization
Purpose International standardization
Headquarters Geneva, Switzerland
162 members[3]
Official languages

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations.

Founded on 23 February 1947, the organization promotes worldwide proprietary, industrial and commercial standards. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland,[5] and as of 2015 works in 163 countries.[6]

It was one of the first organizations granted general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.


ISO, the International Organization for Standardization, is an independent, non-governmental organization, the members of which are the standards organizations of the 162 member countries. It is the world's largest developer of voluntary international standards and facilitates world trade by providing common standards between nations. Nearly twenty thousand standards have been set covering everything from manufactured products and technology to food safety, agriculture and healthcare.[5]

Use of the standards aids in the creation of products and services that are safe, reliable and of good quality. The standards help businesses increase productivity while minimizing errors and waste. By enabling products from different markets to be directly compared, they facilitate companies in entering new markets and assist in the development of global trade on a fair basis. The standards also serve to safeguard consumers and the end-users of products and services, ensuring that certified products conform to the minimum standards set internationally.[5]

Name and abbreviations

The three official languages of the ISO are English, French, and Russian.[4] The name of the organization in French is Organisation internationale de normalisation, and in Russian, Международная организация по стандартизации. According to the ISO, as its name in different languages would have different abbreviations ("IOS" in English, "OIN" in French, etc.), the organization adopted "ISO" as its abbreviated name in reference to the Greek word isos (ἴσος, meaning equal).[7] However, during the founding meetings of the new organization, this Greek word was not invoked, so this explanation may have been imagined later.[8]

Both the name "ISO" and the logo are registered trademarks, and their use is restricted.[9]


Plaque marking the building in Prague where the ISO's predecessor, the ISA, was founded.
(Click to enlarge / read.)

The organization today known as ISO began in 1926 as the International Federation of the National Standardizing Associations (ISA). It was suspended in 1942[10] during World War II, but after the war ISA was approached by the recently formed United Nations Standards Coordinating Committee (UNSCC) with a proposal to form a new global standards body. In October 1946, ISA and UNSCC delegates from 25 countries met in London and agreed to join forces to create the new International Organization for Standardization; the new organization officially began operations in February 1947.[11]


ISO is a voluntary organization whose members are recognized authorities on standards, each one representing one country. Members meet annually at a General Assembly to discuss ISO's strategic objectives. The organization is coordinated by a Central Secretariat based in Geneva.[12]

A Council with a rotating membership of 20 member bodies provides guidance and governance, including setting the Central Secretariat's annual budget.[12][13]

The Technical Management Board is responsible for over 250 technical committees, who develop the ISO standards.[12][14][15][16]

IEC joint committees

ISO has formed joint committees with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to develop standards and terminology in the areas of electrical and electronic related technologies.


Information technology
Main article: ISO/IEC JTC 1

ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC 1) was created in 1987 to "[d]evelop, maintain, promote and facilitate IT standards".[17]


Joint Project Committee  Energy efficiency and renewable energy sources  Common terminology

ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 2 (JTC 2) was created in 2009 for the purpose of "[s]tandardization in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources".[18]


  ISO member countries with a national standards body and ISO voting rights.
  Correspondent members (countries without a national standards body).
  Subscriber members (countries with small economies).
  Non-member countries with ISO 3166-1 codes.

ISO has 162 national members.[3]

ISO has three membership categories:[3]

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


ISO is funded by a combination of:[19]

International Standards and other publications

ISO's main products are international standards. ISO also publishes technical reports, technical specifications, publicly available specifications, technical corrigenda, and guides.[20][21]

International standards
These are designated using the format ISO[/IEC] [/ASTM] [IS] nnnnn[-p]:[yyyy] Title, where nnnnn is the number of the standard, p is an optional part number, yyyy is the year published, and Title describes the subject. IEC for International Electrotechnical Commission is included if the standard results from the work of ISO/IEC JTC1 (the ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee). ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) is used for standards developed in cooperation with ASTM International. yyyy 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
These are issued when a technical committee or subcommittee has collected data of a different kind from that normally published as an International Standard,[20] such as references and explanations. The naming conventions for these are the same as for standards, except TR prepended instead of IS in the report's name.
For example:
Technical and publicly available specifications
Technical specifications may be produced when "the subject in question is still under development or where for any other reason there is the future but not immediate possibility of an agreement to publish an International Standard". A publicly available specification is usually "an intermediate specification, published prior to the development of a full International Standard, or, in IEC may be a 'dual logo' publication published in collaboration with an external organization".[20] By convention, both types of specification are named in a manner similar to the organization's technical reports.
For example:
Technical corrigenda
ISO also sometimes issues "technical corrigenda" (where "corrigenda" is the plural of corrigendum). These are amendments made to existing standards due to minor technical flaws, usability improvements, or limited-applicability extensions. They are generally issued with the expectation that the affected standard will be updated or withdrawn at its next scheduled review.[20]
ISO guides

These are meta-standards covering "matters related to international standardization".[20] They are named using the format "ISO[/IEC] Guide N:yyyy: Title".
For example:

ISO documents are copyrighted and ISO charges for most copies. It does not, however, charge for most draft copies of documents in electronic format. Although they are useful, care must be taken using these drafts as there is the possibility of substantial change before they become finalized as standards. Some standards by ISO and its official U.S. representative (and, via the U.S. National Committee, the International Electrotechnical Commission) are made freely available.[22][23]

Standardization process

A standard published by ISO/IEC is the last stage of a long process that commonly starts with the proposal of new work within a committee. Here are some abbreviations used for marking a standard with its status:[24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

Abbreviations used for amendments:[24][25][26][27][28][29][30][31]

Other abbreviations:[28][29][31][32]

International Standards are developed by ISO technical committees (TC) and subcommittees (SC) by a process with six steps:[26][33]

The TC/SC may set up working groups (WG) of experts for the preparation of a working drafts. Subcommittees may have several working groups, which can have several Sub Groups (SG).[34]

Stages in the development process of an ISO standard[25][26][27][30][33][31]
Stage code Stage Associated document name Abbreviations
  • Description
  • Notes
00 Preliminary Preliminary work item PWI
10 Proposal New work item proposal
  • NP or NWIP
  • NP Amd/TR/TS/IWA
20 Preparatory Working draft or drafts
  • AWI
  • AWI Amd/TR/TS
  • WD
  • WD Amd/TR/TS
30 Committee Committee draft or drafts
  • CD
  • CD Amd/Cor/TR/TS
  • PDAmd (PDAM)
  • PDTR
  • PDTS
40 Enquiry Enquiry draft
  • DIS
  • FCD
  • FPDAmd
  • DAmd (DAM)
  • DTR
  • DTS
(CDV in IEC)
50 Approval Final draft
  • FDIS
  • FDAmd (FDAM)
  • PRF
  • PRF Amd/TTA/TR/TS/Suppl
  • FDTR
60 Publication International Standard
  • ISO
  • TR
  • TS
  • IWA
  • Amd
  • Cor
90 Review
95 Withdrawal

It is possible to omit certain stages, if there is a document with a certain degree of maturity at the start of a standardization project, for example a standard developed by another organization. ISO/IEC directives allow also the so-called "Fast-track procedure". In this procedure a document is submitted directly for approval as a draft International Standard (DIS) to the ISO member bodies or as a final draft International Standard (FDIS) if the document was developed by an international standardizing body recognized by the ISO Council.[26]

The first step—a proposal of work (New Proposal) is approved at the relevant subcommittee or technical committee (e.g., SC29 and JTC1 respectively in the case of Moving Picture Experts Group - ISO/IEC JTC1/SC29/WG11). A working group (WG) of experts is set up by the TC/SC for the preparation of a working draft. When the scope of a new work is sufficiently clarified, some of the working groups (e.g., MPEG) usually make open request for proposals—known as a "call for proposals". The first document that is produced for example for audio and video coding standards is called a verification model (VM) (previously also called a "simulation and test model"). When a sufficient confidence in the stability of the standard under development is reached, a working draft (WD) is produced. This is in the form of a standard but is kept internal to working group for revision. When a working draft is sufficiently solid and the working group is satisfied that it has developed the best technical solution to the problem being addressed, it becomes committee draft (CD). If it is required, it is then sent to the P-members of the TC/SC (national bodies) for ballot.

The CD becomes final committee draft (FCD) if the number of positive votes is above the quorum. Successive committee drafts may be considered until consensus is reached on the technical content. When it is reached, the text is finalized for submission as a draft International Standard (DIS). The text is then submitted to national bodies for voting and comment within a period of five months. It is approved for submission as a final draft International Standard (FDIS) if a two-thirds majority of the P-members of the TC/SC are in favour and not more than one-quarter of the total number of votes cast are negative. ISO will then hold a ballot with National Bodies where no technical changes are allowed (yes/no ballot), within a period of two months. It is approved as an International Standard (IS) if a two-thirds majority of the P-members of the TC/SC is in favour and not more than one-quarter of the total number of votes cast are negative. After approval, only minor editorial changes are introduced into the final text. The final text is sent to the ISO Central Secretariat, which publishes it as the International Standard.[24][26]

Products named after ISO

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


With the exception of a small number of isolated standards,[22] ISO standards are normally not available free of charge, but for a purchase fee,[35] which has been seen by some as too expensive for small open source projects.[36]

The ISO/IEC JTC1 fast-track procedures ("Fast-track" as used by OOXML and "PAS" as used by OpenDocument) have garnered criticism in relation to the standardization of Office Open XML (ISO/IEC 29500). Martin Bryan, outgoing Convenor of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1, is quoted as 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'.[37]

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 Shuttleworth alleged that ISO did not carry out its responsibility. He also noted 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 is not clear.[38]

See also

Notes and references

  1. The three official full names of the ISO can be found at the beginning of the foreword sections of the PDF document: "ISO/IEC Guide 2:2004 Standardization and related activities — General vocabulary" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 July 2011.
  2. "Organisation internationale de normalisation".
  3. 1 2 3 "ISO members". International Organization for Standardization. Archived from the original on 9 February 2015.
  4. 1 2 "How to use the ISO Catalogue". Archived from the original on 4 October 2007.
  5. 1 2 3 "About ISO". ISO. Archived from the original on 4 October 2007.
  6. The number of membre working countries an be found on the first page of the report. "Annual Report 2013" (PDF). ISO. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  7. "About ISO - Our name". ISO. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012.
  8. "Friendship among equals" (PDF). ISO. (page 20)
  9. "ISO name and logo". ISO. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012.
  10. "A Brief History of ISO". University of Pittsburgh.
  11. Friendship among equals - Recollections from ISO's first fifty years (PDF), International Organization for Standardization, 1997, pp. 15–18, ISBN 92-67-10260-5, archived (PDF) from the original on 26 October 2012
  12. 1 2 3 "Structure and governance". International Organization for Standardization. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012.
  13. "Council". International Organization for Standardization. Archived from the original on 3 November 2012.
  14. "Technical committees". International Organization for Standardization. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012.
  15. "Who develops ISO standards?". International Organization for Standardization. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012.
  16. "Governance of technical work". International Organization for Standardization. Archived from the original on 19 September 2012.
  17. "ISO/IEC JTC 1". International Organization for Standardization. Archived from the original on 15 December 2011.
  18. "ISO/IEC JPC 2 Joint Project Committee - Energy efficiency and renewable energy sources - Common terminology". International Organization for Standardization. Archived from the original on 6 October 2012.
  19. "General information on ISO". ISO. Archived from the original on 5 October 2007.
  20. 1 2 3 4 5 The ISO directives are published in two distinct parts:
  21. ISO. "ISO/IEC Directives and ISO supplement". Archived from the original on 16 May 2008.
  22. 1 2 "Freely Available Standards". ISO. 1 February 2011.
  23. "Free ANSI Standards". Archived from the original on 3 April 2007.
  24. 1 2 3 "About MPEG". Archived from the original on 21 February 2010.
  25. 1 2 3 ISO. "International harmonized stage codes". Archived from the original on 4 October 2007.
  26. 1 2 3 4 5 6 ISO. "Stages of the development of International Standards". Archived from the original on 12 August 2007.
  27. 1 2 3 "The ISO27k FAQ - ISO/IEC acronyms and committees". IsecT Ltd. Archived from the original on 24 November 2005.
  28. 1 2 3 ISO (2007). "ISO/IEC Directives Supplement — Procedures specific to ISO" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 12 January 2012.
  29. 1 2 3 ISO (2007). "List of abbreviations used throughout ISO Online". Archived from the original on 12 August 2007.
  30. 1 2 3 "US Tag Committee Handbook" (DOC). March 2008.
  31. 1 2 3 ISO/IEC JTC1 (2 November 2009), Letter Ballot on the JTC 1 Standing Document on Technical Specifications and Technical Reports (PDF)
  32. ISO. "ISO deliverables". Archived from the original on 12 August 2007.
  33. 1 2 ISO (2008), ISO/IEC Directives, Part 1 - Procedures for the technical work, Sixth edition, 2008 (PDF), archived (PDF) from the original on 14 July 2010
  34. ISO, IEC (5 November 2009). "ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29, SC 29/WG 11 Structure (ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 29/WG 11 - Coding of Moving Pictures and Audio)". Archived from the original on 28 January 2001.
  35. "Shopping FAQs". ISO. Archived from the original on 5 October 2007.
  36. Jelliffe, Rick (1 August 2007). "Where to get ISO Standards on the Internet free". Archived from the original on 24 November 2007. The lack of free online availability has effectively made ISO standard irrelevant to the (home/hacker section of the) Open Source community
  37. "Report on WG1 activity for December 2007 Meeting of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34/WG1 in Kyoto". iso/jtc1 sc34. Archived from the original on 12 August 2007.
  38. "Ubuntu's Shuttleworth blames ISO for OOXML's win". 1 April 2008. Archived from the original on 4 April 2008.

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