Open Web Foundation is to Autonomo.us as OSI is to FSF?

This morning David Recordon formally announced the Open Web Foundation in a morning keynote at OSCON. (The shorter url openweb.org will come at somepoint).

The OWF tagline / elevator statement is “The Open Web Foundation is an independent non-profit dedicated to the development and protection of open, non-proprietary specifications for web technologies.” The OWF goals, from their home page:

Following the open source model similar to the Apache Software Foundation, the foundation is aimed at building a lightweight framework to help communities deal with the legal requirements necessary to create successful and widely adopted specification.

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.

This is wonderful, and it is great to see the large number of significant companies and well known advocates for open source which are part of the foundation and it’s efforts.

But I worry about two specific things.

First, is this foundation itself an example of the “yet-another-foundation” syndrome? Why is it that none of the existing organizations would suffice? This is not the Open Social Foundation, not part of OSI, not part of the FSF, not closely related enough to any of the existing non-profits? Why do open source efforts so often end up making their own new group? (Developers always feel they need to invent yet another protocol or start yet another project, rather than adapting an existing one).

Second, is this foundation too focused on a broad, commercially friendly vision of the open web, and not enough focused on user freedom? Is this about continuing to run services based on open source software but services in which the data is captive? Is the focus on non-proprietary specifications too narrow to ensure real freedom, if the implementations of those specs achieve lock-in through data rather than code?

I know it is early days – there’s much discussion which will need to happen to see what OWF can really contribute.

What makes me optimistic is the individuals behind Open Web Foundation – all of which I respect for their contributions to open source and free software. What makes me concerned is that throughout David’s talk this morning he kept focusing on “the big companies that make up the web.” I’d rather see the DiSo approach to social networking, or the Laconi.ca approach to microblogging, be the types of applications the Open Web Foundation helps bring into existence.

In short (as I said on this thread at Get Satisfaction), I’d hate to see us all replicate the FSF/OSI history, with Autonomo.us and the Franklin Street Statement on one side and OWF on the other.

(This is a pretty drafty post for me with lots of initial thoughts – please do let me know what you think about this!)

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  1. #1 • John said on July 29 2008:
     

    See also Luis Villa on “What We Are and What We Aren’t” at the autonomo.us blog.

    He argues that, from an automo.us point of view: “we complement- rather than compete with- projects like DiSo, DataPortability, and Open Web Foundation”