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Open source meets open standards

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Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook, and other web-happy types have embraced a new effort to promote the use of free and open specifications across the net.

Yes, that's Google and Microsoft working arm-in-arm. The wonders never cease.

Today, as part of its ongoing effort apply open-source-software licensing to web specifications, the Open Web Foundation published a new legal agreement for specs known - appropriately enough - as the Open Source Web Foundation Agreement. In essence, this legal boilerplate allows an individual organization - or a group of organizations - to open specs to the world without enduring the interminable hell of the traditional standards body bureaucracy.

"This can be thought of a lot like an open source software license - but instead of for software, it's for specifications," Facebook open guru and OWF board member David Recordon tells The Reg.

"What it really tries to do is allow a group of people to come together to create a specification and then - when they're done - apply this agreement to it, so that everyone knows that the specification really is freely implementable - that they're not going to be sued for patent claims or anything like that."

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook, and others have already applied the new legal agreement to a trio of specifications: OAuth, a protocol that lets users access web services without providing user name and password credentials; OAuth WRAP, an update to the protocol; and the Simple Web Token, an open token-request protocol.

Yahoo! has also applied the OFW agreement to Media RSS (mRSS) spec, a way of, yes, syndicating heavy media across the net - not just text. And Microsoft has opened up a trio of its own standards in much the same way.

"What we're trying to do is spend out money on engineering, and then, when we have something, we simply apply this agreement," says Eran Hammer-Lahav, director of standards development at Yahoo! and the president of the Open Web Foundation. "In the same way you can write software and then give it out under the Apache license."

The Foundation is itself based on the Apache model. It's build around individual members - not companies. Well, and the Creative Commons model. "The Foundation doesn't create standards. It doesn't get involved in the spec development process," says Microsoft senior lawyer and OWF board member David Rudin. "We set up the agreements for others to adopt." ®

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