Buzz by DeWitt Clinton from Buzz
1) Open protocols and formats mean two specific things to me:
The first is licensing of the protocols themselves, with respect to who can legally implement them and/or who can legally fork them. This involves patent and copyright licenses (and sadly yes, lawyers). While a small number of us are always debating the finer details of how it works, eventually there’s a binary aspect to it: a protocol has to be formally licensed for reuse for it to be open.
The second is the license by which the data itself is made available. (The Terms and Conditions, so to speak.) The formal definitions are less well established here (thus far!), but it ultimately has to do with who owns the data and what proprietary rights over it are asserted.
In an ideal, interoperable, and decentralized world, implementors can both clone and/or fork the protocols as desired (without asking permission), and users can get their own data back out without needing to follow to someone else’s restrictions about how they use it.
It’s important to look at both aspects above when judging if a system is open. Can I legally fork and/or clone it? And, am I entering into a arrangement that places limitations on my rights to use my own data? (And the corollary, are other people entering into a arrangement that puts limitations on their rights to share their own data with me?)
If the answer to either or both is “no”, then no matter what we may want to believe, regrettably it’s not an open system. (And don’t be misled—even the worst data silos are obviously going to enable some way to get data out, otherwise no one would put anything in. The question is what do you have give up to get it back out? It’s a question I believe more people should be asking, and asking it before they turn their data over to some network.)
So when I say “open” I don’t just throw the word around casually. I mean those two very precise things: what is the license, and what are the Terms. It’s not hand-waving, and it’s not marketing. It’s technical, and it’s legal. Boring to some,