At the Glue Conference this week I’m enjoying a great set of speakers lined up by Eric Norlin on the topic of how everything in the networked universe gets glued together using Web 2.0 tools and beyond. (The talk Mitch Kapor gave this morning was worth the trip all by itself.)
In a few minutes I’ll be on a panel called Implementing the Open Web. In chatting with Lloyd Hilaiel of Yahoo, Kevin Mullins of MIT, and Phil Windley of Kynetx about this topic last night, we hit on one key point that Phil articulated this way: “People tend to conflate ‘open’ with ‘public domain’, i.e., that anything that qualifies as open must be freely available to all.”
It struck me how true this is. It reminds me of the Richard Stallman quote describing open source (cited in the Wikipedia Gratis versus Libre article): “Think free as in free speech, not free beer.”
In terms of data on the Open Web, what this means that even though a particular pool of data may be available via an open standard, publicly-accessible interface, it does NOT mean this data must be publicly available to anyone. If that were true, the whole concept of a personal data store — a key premise of VRM (Vendor Relationship Management) — would not be possible.
So what makes any system or node participating in the Web “open” is not that its data is public, but that the metadata and services for accessing it are available via a publicly discoverable, open-standard interface. The public discovery portion of this is the goal of the XRD work now underway at the XRI Technical Committee at OASIS (based on the original XRDS work – see this blog post by Eran Hammer-Lahav of Yahoo to understand the differences). The open standard portion is the output of IETF, W3C, OASIS, and all the other SSOs (standards-setting organizations) for the net. (The potential of the Open Web Foundation, once it finishes its bootstrap stage, is to make this process of creating open standards even more lightweight and distributed.)
This combination – open discovery of open interfaces accessible over open protocols – is the DNA of the Open Web. And it applies equally to both public and private data. In fact it can finally open up what might be called the Permissioned Web – the Web of all all data that any one party has permission from other parties to access.
That would lead us to the need for integrating identity and permissions with the data, which brings us to the motivations for XDI as a semantic data sharing format/protocol – but my panel is about to start so that will have to be another post.