Open Web Foundation to Keep Data 'Open'

The Open Web Foundation launches at OSCON with a focus on keeping open-source community efforts open and unfettered.The effort is backed by individuals and companies such as Facebook, Google and MySpace.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A coalition of individuals and corporate backers are creating the Open Web Foundation, an attempt to create a home for community-driven specifications following the open-source model similar to the Apache Software Foundation.

The group was announced July 24 here at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention.

Geir Magnusson, an ASF director, who was among the group that helped set the organization in motion, said the Open Web Foundation will be a success if it can take the concept of the Apache Software Foundation's incubator and help to enable open-source communities to deal with legal issues and intellectual property concerns.

"However, we don't want it to be another standards body," Magnusson said.

At OSCON, David Recordon, an engineer at Six Apart, announced the formation of the Open Web Foundation, identifying it as "a non-profit where communities can come and work together."

According to the Open Web Foundation Web site:

""The foundation is trying to break the trend of creating separate foundations for each specification, coming out of the realization that we could come together and generalize our efforts. The details regarding membership, governance, sponsorship and intellectual property rights will be posted for public review and feedback in the following weeks.""

Recordon said the group doesn't "want to create another organization; we're trying to take the spirit of open source, of going and pulling together an ecosystem of the things that have come before us."

He said the group would focus on four things: incubation, licensing, copyright and community.

In a blog post about the Open Web Foundation entitled "The Open Web Foundation: Apache for the other stuff," Dion Almaer, co-founder of and an engineer at Google, said:

""Apache is great for code, but it doesn't deal with the other stuff, which is fine. That isn't its mandate. Apache does things very well, though, especially when it comes to governance and the incubator process. What if we had a foundation that had some of the same values around people participating (so anyone can, versus companies) and a varied community (not just a few blokes from the same company)? This is why I am hopeful for the Open Web Foundation. It is a new place to look at if you come up with something helpful for the Open Web, a place that may match your values.""

Recordon said the "conversation is shifting from just open source to data" and with many environments moving into the cloud, data becomes even more important. "The open Web needs data...and open data needs open standards," he said.

Tim O'Reilly, CEO of O'Reilly Media, which runs OSCON, said his concern is about data and how control over data can be its own form of lock-in and control.

Meanwhile, also in a blog post, Chris Saad, co-director of the DataPortability project, said:

"It seems like the foundation is well placed to provide a much-needed level of oversight and legal protection for fledgling open standards. These standards will ultimately contribute to the -data portability' vision of an inter-operable, standards-based Web of data. In our investigations of the various standards, this has been a key concern for us and we feel encouraged people are stepping up to remove this potential roadblock. There is enormous value in getting more people involved in working towards a vision we all share, and for that reason I am genuinely excited by this development."

Although the Open Web Foundation is made up of individuals, it has corporate sponsorship from companies such as the BBC, Facebook, Google, MySpace, O'Reilly Media, Plaxo, Six Apart, Sourceforge, Vidoop and Yahoo.

Danese Cooper, senior director of open-source strategies at Intel and a founding member of the Open Web Forum, said one of her roles was to call on large companies to inform them about the effort.

"The big companies freaked out," Cooper said. "They didn't want to see it just happen - they wanted to think about it awhile - but you have to just act."