Open Web Foundation to Play Freedom Cop for Net Specs

The Open Web Foundation (OWF) introduced itself to the world last week at OSCON, the Open Source Convention, held in Portland, Ore. The consortium of individuals and Internet companies is an effort to build a home for community-driven specifications on the Web.

The organization follows open source models already seen in the Apache Software Foundation. Its goal is to provide a lightweight framework that will help communities handle the legal requirements necessary to create successful and widely adopted specifications.

The OWF is “trying to build a nonprofit organization which can help create open specifications for the Web in a way that promotes a diverse community of contributors and helps to ensure that each specification is freely implementable by anyone,” said David Recordon, an OWF principal member and tech lead at Six Apart.

Open to All

In recent times, a slew of open source initiatives have been launched for the Internet, including OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial and the Portable Contacts Application Programming Interface, just to name a few.

Though many of the same backers are involved in each of these projects, each effort has had to independently create the appropriate legal framework to ensure that “their work is freely implementable by anyone,” Recordon said.

“Thus far, the solution has been to create a foundation for each of these building blocks that continue to be developed. The Open Web Foundation is trying to provide these sorts of communities a place where they can work under a lightweight process that makes getting started easy while still ensuring the specifications are freely implementable by anyone,” he explained.

Other individuals and companies involved in OWF include DeWitt Clinton, Scott Kveton, Facebook, Google, MySpace, O’Reilly, Plaxo and Yahoo.

The Plan

Looking at other organizations in the open source space such as the Apache Foundation and the Eclipse Foundation, there really is not an organization that specifically addresses the need for the development and protection of open specifications for Web technologies, according to Raven Zachary, an analyst at The 451 Group.

“That essentially is what this organization is trying to address,” he told LinuxInsider. “There have been a lot of projects done on the Open Web, but they have been independent. This is a chance to bring them together under a common banner, promoting the Open Web.”

The OWF is focused on creating a place for the dissemination of community-driven specifications for the open Web, he continued. To date, open Web projects have generally been managed independently, and having a single foundation with a common system of governance — how to manage intellectual property, how to manage sponsorship from commercial interests and membership — will offer a common umbrella to protect and disseminate these technologies, he said.

“In the same way that the Apache Software Foundation has been a very effective mechanism for promoting a variety of open source projects, the Open Web Foundation uses a similar model for these open specifications,” Zachary pointed out.

“I know a lot of the members of the OWF, and they are people that I trust and respect. They are movers and shakers. These are not just individuals … they are sponsored by some very large and impressive names in the industry. And I think you’ll see a lot of great work come out of this foundation,” he concluded.

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