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July 25, 2008

Open Web Foundation

I think this one has been brewing for quite some time - the Open Web Foundation is pulling together a number of specifications under the umbrella of a single foundation.

The Open Web Foundation was announced by David Recordon of SixApart at OSCON yesterday.

The new foundation is to "create a home for community-driven specifications" such as oAuth and OpenID as well -if the slides are anything to go by - as the currently very proprietary Google Gadgets.

On the one hand I think this is certainly a step in the right direction for getting these specifications onto a stable footing. On the other hand, what about IETF? What about W3C? What about ISO? What about UN/CEFACT? I'd like to see a good rationale for why none of these existing organisations are unsuitable for the kind of work being discussed. Do they take too long? Are they full of your competitors? Are they too undemocratic? Too democratic? This is a very serious issue, especially as in the Google case, W3C have been working on non-proprietary open specifications in the same areas.

One argument is that the new body should purely focus on IPR management. This is certainly one area of concern with community specifications, and tackling it would be very useful. However, this would then require a very hands-off approach by the organisation, which is maintained without the urge to control the direction of the specifications themselves. Already discussions are taking place about what criteria the organisation would set up as to what projects it would accept, and what processes it will have to develop.

For example, would the OWF incubate a competitor to oAuth? If not, why not, and how would it make that decision?

If the OWF really can pull off a lightweight approach to IPR management for specifications then this could be a useful initiative, but the relationship with, in particular, the W3C and IETF needs to be explained much more clearly, and the role corporate interests are playing (Google, Yahoo!) in its development made explicit, before we know if the OWF is a good place to work on interoperability issues.

If Atom (or Pie as it used to be called) was being developed now, would it now join OWF, or would it still offer its spec to IETF to become an open standard? What would be the difference?

More coverage over at TechCrunch

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