Disclaimer: This post does not reflect the opinions, thoughts, strategies or future intentions of my employer. These are solely my personal opinions. If you are seeking official position statements from Microsoft, please go here.
Earlier this week, David Recordon announced the creation of the Open Web Foundation at OSCON 2008. His presentation is embedded below
From the organization's Web site you get the following outline of it's mission
The Open Web Foundation is an attempt to create a home for community-driven specifications. 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.
Before you point out that this seems to create yet another "standards" organization for Web technology, there are already canned answers to this question. Google evangelist Dion Almaer provides justification for why existing Web standards organizations do not meet their needs in his post entitled The Open Web Foundation; Apache for the other stuff where he writes
Let’s take an example. Imagine that you came up with a great idea, something like OAuth. That great idea gains some traction and more people want to get involved. What do you do? People ask about IP policy, and governance, and suddenly you see yourself on the path of creating a new MyApiFoundation.
Wait a minute! There are plenty of standards groups and other organizations out there, surely you don’t have to create MyApiFoundation?
Well, there is the W3C and OASIS, which are pay to play orgs. They have their place, but MyApi may not fit in there. The WHATWG has come up with fantastic work, but the punting on IP is an issue too.
At face value, it's hard to argue with this logic. The W3C charges fees using a weird progressive taxation model where a company pays anything from a few hundred to several thousand dollars depending on how the W3C assesses their net worth. OASIS similarly charges from $1,000 to $50,000 depending on how much influence the member company wants to have in the organization. After that it seems there are a bunch of one off organizations like the Open ID foundation and the WHATWG that are dedicated to a specific technology.
Or so the spin from the Open Web Foundation would have you believe.
In truth there is already an organization dedicated to producing "Open" Web technologies that has a well thought out policy on membership, governance, sponsorship and intellectual property rights that isn't pay to play. This is not a new organization, it actually happens to be older than David Recordon who unveiled the Open Web Foundation.
The name of this organization is the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). If you are reading this blog post then you are using technologies for the "Open Web" created by the IETF. You may be reading my post in a Web browser in which case the content was transferred to you over HTTP (RFC 2616) and if you're reading it in an RSS reader then I should add that you're also directly consuming my Atom feed (RFC 4287). Some of you are reading this post because someone sent you an email which is another example of an IETF protocol at work, SMTP (RFC 2821).
The IETF policy on membership doesn't get more straightforward; join a mailing list. I am listed as a member of the Atom working group in RFC 4287 because I was a participant in the atom-syntax mailing list. The organization has a well thought out and detailed policy on intellectual property rights as it relates the IETF specifications which is detailed in RFC 3979: Intellectual Property Rights in IETF Technology and slightly updated in RFC 4879: Clarification of the Third Party Disclosure Procedure in RFC 3979.
I can understand that a bunch of kids fresh out of college are ignorant of the IETF and believe they have to reinvent the wheel to Save the Open Web but I am surprised that Google which has had several of it's employees participate in the IETF processes which created RFC 4287, RFC 4959, RFC 5023 and RFC 5034 would join in this behavior. Why would Google decide to sponsor a separate standards organization that competes with the IETF that has less inclusive processes than the IETF, no clear idea of how corporate sponsorship will work and a yet to be determined IPR policy?
That's just fucking weird.
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