Building the Open Web Foundation

OWFNext month will be a year since the work on creating the Open Web Foundation started. It has been 8 months since the initiative was unveiled at OSCON 2008, and six months since the legal entity was created and work began on the legal framework for specifications.

We accomplished a lot during this time. Not so much in hard deliverables, but in building industry-recognized momentum and starting to change the way individuals and companies think about community-driven specifications and light-weight standards. Over the past couple of months, members of this community have been invited as experts to talk to well respected and established standards bodies, and explain this work. This is not a small accomplishment.

Most of the current work is focused on delivering a legal framework communities can use to write specifications in a way that will allow large and small companies to use them. Adoption, after all, is what specifications are all about. We formed the Legal Affair Committee with individuals representing a wide range of positions, some their personal views while other of their corporate employer. The committee has been focusing on producing the first Open Specification Agreement document and we have a working draft that we hope can be finished in the next few weeks.

I strongly believe that in order for this organization to have a respected voice, it has to have some form of open government, that is more than just 8 self selected individuals. The Open Web Foundation board needs to vote before any legal document can be published as an official document. This means that as soon as the Legal Affairs Committee is ready to submit a document to the board, we need to have an elected board ready to ratify it.

It is also time to rethink the purpose of this organization and consider better aligning it with some of the expectations the community had when it was announced. I am not suggesting anything radical, but there are obvious needs that can be accommodated without betraying the original goals. I think the two needs: to put in place an elected board, and to realign the purpose of this entity, can be accomplished with one plan, by moving forward and establishing a foundation membership.

As the name suggests, this organization is about the Open Web, the platform the web is built upon. This includes specifications, technologies, ideals, ideas, and people. We have been focusing on a subset of the ground floor: specifications. But there are other areas where we could expand such as evangelism, education, resources, and building a home for people to discuss these topics.

We have a chicken and egg challenge. How to select the right membership before the goals are clear, and how to define the goals, without a larger membership. I much rather begin by increasing participation than having 8 people make decision. I trust that smart dedicated individuals coming together will figure out the common cause, and if they don’t fit with the majority’s direction, will step aside un-offended.

I am going to propose a plan, and after some discussion on this list, will ask the board to vote on it. I think it is absolutely essential that we debate this out in the open in the most inclusive way possible. However, since we have a legal organization with well-defined bylaws, it is important that we use that framework to cast votes and make decisions. It is also important we act quickly.

Please join the discussion.

One thought on “Building the Open Web Foundation

  1. I’m fascinated by open social collaborative design. The democracy of the web and our attention almost requires elected organizations of reps to help create standards for developers to rally behind (and ahead of).

    I’ve noticed an issue though. Folks like Dave Winer and the creators of PubSubHubBub have created valuable tools to aid in real time Rss web sharing. They are creating new infrastructure without any need of official foundation approval or support. Their inventive spirit is critical for the evolutionary brilliance of open development.

    How best can standards be pushed forward rapidly enough to keep pace with innovators? If they don’t how relevant are they?

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