While the ISO defines itself as a non-governmental organization, its ability to set standards which often become law through treaties or national standards makes it more powerful than most NGOs, and in practice it acts as a consortium with strong links to governments. Partipants include one standards body from each member country and major corporations.
ISO cooperates closely with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which is responsible for standardization of electrical equipment.
The organization is usually referred to simply as ISO (pronounced eye-so). It is a common misconception that ISO stands for International Standards Organization, or something similar. ISO is not an acronym; it comes from the Greek word isos, meaning equal. In English its name is International Organization for Standardization, while in French it is called Organisation Internationale de Normalisation; to use an acronym would result in different acronyms in English (IOS) and French (OIN), thus the founders of the organization chose ISO as the universal short form of its name.
ISO standards are numbered, and have a format that contains "ISO 99999:yyyy: Title" where "99999" is the standard number, "yyyy" is the year published, and "Title" describes the subject.
Many CD images end in the file extension "ISO" to signify that they are using the ISO 9660 standard filesystem - hence CD images being commonly referred to as "ISOs." Virtually all computers with CD-ROM drives can read CDs that use this standard. DVD-ROMs also use ISO 9660 filesystems.