Here’s good news for everyone who appreciates technologies that play well with others: The independent Open Web Foundation has announced a new legal framework agreement that communities of Web developers can use in collaborating on new technology specifications.
This agreement was hammered out with support from Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook, Google and others. It will help communities lay the legal foundation needed for specifications to be successful and widely adopted as standards. Individuals and organization also can release their specifications under the agreement.
Standards come from many different sources, the best known being organizations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), which shepherded development of the familiar and enormously valuable 802.11 specifications for Wi-Fi, for example. Thanks in part to advances in communication that such organization-based standards have enabled, informal communities have begun also developing specifications. Often this work is done out in the open on the Internet without any legal framework. Setting the legal terms afterwards can lead to year-long negotiations that delay adoption.
The Open Web Foundation was formed to help these communities. It doesn’t develop specifications itself, but aims to establish legal agreements that others can choose to adopt. Developers may use these agreements without involving Open Web Foundation, much as anyone can apply a Creative Commons copyright license without involving Creative Commons.
I’m a board member of the Open Web Foundation, and I worked with the Foundation’s legal committee to help draft its agreement. I’m excited that we’ve helped establish a legally sound basis for broad participation and adoption of community specifications, which can then transition to formal standardization, if desired.
To help show Microsoft’s support, we announced that we’re making five specifications available under the Open Web Foundation Agreement version 0.9: OAuth WRAP, Simple Web Tokens, OpenService Format Specification, WebSlice Format Specification, and XML Search Suggestions Format Specification. The latter three specifications will also remain available under both the Open Specification Promise (OSP) and Creative Commons licenses.
All these licensing frameworks share the goal of providing intellectual property assurances that will encourage innovation. Which is good news for everybody.