Rustici Acquisition and Open Standards

Open StandardsRustici is a reputable company with a lot of talented folks and deep involvement in eLearning standards such as SCORM and ‘TinCan’ (xAPI !). In fact, so thorough is their involvement and expertise, not only have quite a few other LMS products licensed Rustici’s engines but Adobe migrated Captivate’s entire SCORM (and probably xAPI) engine to Rustici’s implementation…and starting with Captivate 9, they included a specific publishing link to Rustici’s ‘SCORM Cloud’ site. I myself have recommended ‘SCORM Cloud’ countless times as a testing platform for developers’ eLearning content. All in all, Rustici creates industry-leading API engines for the eLearning industry, no doubt.

So I wonder if their acquisition by Learning Technologies Group (LTG) in January 2016 will have any affect on that expertise and dedication. Probably not. Per the Rustici blog, they will “continue to be agnostic, supportive of the standards, and generally the same company we always have been.”
That’s somewhat reassuring.

LTG is a relatively big player. Within their portfolio is ‘gomo Learning‘ (lowercase ‘g’ intentional). I’ve not used Gomo (ack…I have to capitalize it!) but have seen it on the rise and hear good things.
Should I be concerned about third-party licensing of Rustici’s SCORM/xAPI engines to third-parties when those products directly compete with LTG’s products? How about licensing concerns with eLearning development companies when LTG owns Preloaded and  Eukleia?

ADLWhatever concerns this acquisition may raise, it’s not like LTG can lockdown SCORM and xAPI – they are open standards officially maintained by ADL, a US government agency. But Rustici is an influential player on the eLearning stage. And, personally, it bugs me that domains such as scorm.com and tincanapi.com point to Rustici’s site.
Hey, if someone grabs a good, non-trademarked domain for their website, that’s just good business. And I’m somewhat ok with scorm.com as anyone could have grabbed that early on.

But while Rustici led the development of the xAPI spec, they also came up with the TinCan working name, so no one else had a chance to grab the that domain. Fair enough while xAPI was in development…but once released, that domain should redirect to ADL.

Rustici has an official somewhat-response to these concerns on their site..but it’s plainly ancient and I doubt they’re pushing at all for any change as they surely benefit significantly from search traffic.  The xapi.com domain does come up as ‘for sale’…for a minimum of $10,000! (probably not Rustici’s doing).

But Rustici could stop promoting the working name (TinCan) and get on board with the official name; Experience API = xAPI, regardless of how silly it may be. But, of course, there’s no real NEED to and it’s not really in their best interest.

I’d feel a lot better about Rustici’s commitment to these open standards, especially now that they’re no longer truly independent, if those domains pointed to ADL. Rustici would still easily dominate search results for scorm, xAPI, and TinCan with their history, products, articles, and reputation (btw, their ‘SCORM Run-time Reference‘ is awesome and been a terrific resource to me over the years)

All that said, I’m don’t mean to bash Rustici – good company, great minds, solid products, and a fun place to work (I’m told). I just urge vigilance considering their new English Corporate Lords :). Is it telling that, as of this writing, their blog hasn’t had a new entry since the announcement followup in February?

IMS Global
IMS Global

AND, it all may be irrelevant anyway; cmi5 is the ‘next generation’ – (previous post) – a hybrid of the best of SCORM and xAPI. This seems to be moving forward (slowly) with guidance from ADL and companies like RISC-inc.
Then there’s IMS Global, which has guided the LTI standard (mostly used in education) and is currently pushing the Caliper Analytics framework (recently adopted by Kaltura).
So while things move slowly in these areas, perhaps those other various initiatives will keep the entire sphere-of-standards open quite enough.

Best of luck to Rustici! And here’s to maintaining open standards… But please, use ‘xAPI’ and stop calling it TinCan…

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