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.
After my experience with helping to craft the IPR policy around OpenID, OAuth, and XRDS-Simple, along with my experience with the IPR around XRI, I've been arguing for a very lightweight organization whose simple purpose is to make it dead simple for a community of interested people to create specifications that are free from IPR (specifically patent) encumbrances as possible, but without all the extra baggage (politics, cost, process) that comes with a traditional standards body. I had been advocating making OASIS a more lightweight, and open (read: free for individuals) organization, but those suggestions didn't get enthusiastic responses.
(you'll have to excuse the terseness - this is largely lifted from Twitter, where brevity is king):
- The open web foundation is being positioned as NOT a standards body. Fine line.
- I think the Open Web Foundation is motivated primarily by IPR hygiene concerns. Thats the main relevance that standards bodies have today. And what makes IPR hygiene more important these days is patents. Patent non-encumberance can be maximized by agreement -> coordination.
- Freedom from copyright encumberance is easy - copyrights are about tangible expressions. Patents are about abstract *ideas*. Its hard to conclusively say, ahead of time, that an idea is or IS NOT being used by a community's specmaking. Instead, agree to not sue.
- Hence, a standards body, or a "IPR hygiene" organization. An IPR DMZ.. Yah, thats it. IPR DMZ...
- A patent commons is more like a mutual defense pact. Donate your patent and we'll wield them against infiltrators.
- OWF is more about groups who want to operate under non-assertion covenants - a more passive (less friction) way of ensuring open.
- Community specs are being written outside those orgs *today* for a reason. Politics, lack of individual memberships/focus, etc
- The OWF's main distinguishing factor *must* be its lightweight-ness. Otherwise, it does become YASDO (yet another stds dev org).
- Non-assertion covenants (OWF's IPR mode of operation, I'm assuming) are to patent pools like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreements are to NATO...
I made the following comment to a question about "how is this different than the w3c or ietf"?:
My guess is that for a lot of specs that need to have clean IPR hygiene, but aren't really concerned with official status (at least in the short term), the OWF will probably be the end of the line (in terms of standardization).
But for some things, you *have* to go to formal standards bodies. There are literally some orgs that can't use specs that don't come from ISO, for example.
This org is an attempt to make the mechanics of around IPR become "non issues" for communities of interest around technologies (to the extent such a community is interested in making a truly open web - if someone has patents and doesn't want to participate - there's nothing much that can be done there).
And finally my post to the google group:
An early way I'm describing the Open Web Foundation is (as Scott says) not a Standards Body, but a "IPR DMZ" - (an intellectual property rights demilitarized zone).
Most folks who are hearing about this haven't directly participated in a community standards effort, or a more formal standards body. They think the W3C/IETF/OASIS "covers it".
But I think the sense of folks here is that there needs to be something lighter weight that's only focused on the minimum needed for a spec to become widely adoptable. For me, thats IPR hygiene -- almost everything else can be done *easily* without an org (save, maybe the organizational standup of a new org to hold/manage IPR). Having slogged through this IPR policy stuff several times,I'm really happy to see this effort to create a reusable framework for community efforts. I only hope it remains lightweight and facilitates the widest range of community efforts as possible.
I'm in #owf on irc.freenode.net (GabeW) to discuss the Open Web Foundation, if you're interested.