New Open Web Foundation Licensing Used by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Facebook to Open Source Standards

openwebFacebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and several other companies (including several startups) have released various specifications and standards as part of the release of a new licensing agreement by the Open Web Foundation (OWF). The newOpen Web Foundation Agreement (OWFa) is a licensing agreement aimed at streamlining innovation by making it easy for a variety of entities to open source standards and specifications in a straightforward and easy manner.

If you're not familiar with the OWF, it is a non-profit organization that helps developer communities collaborate and share technical innovation on the web, by applying the approaches of the open source community to standards and protocols. In essence, the foundation aims to facilitate the creation and implementation of specifications through legal agreements that are simple and effective.

The Yodel Anecdotal blog provides a good summary of what the OWFa signifies for developers and companies alike:

Today, the Open Web Foundation is announcing the availability of the Open Web Foundation Agreement (OWFa), a reusable and straight-forward legal document, designed to be easily adopted by a wide range of specification communities and organizations. Specifications made available under the Open Web Foundation Agreement may include everything from small ad-hoc formats sketched out among friends to large multi-corporation collaborations that ultimately grow into internationally recognized standards with the help of formal standards- setting organizations.

And Marshall Kirpatrick at ReadWriteWeb provides some additional food for thought with regard to the OWFa:

What does this mean? It means that other companies will be able to use technologies like Media RSS, OAuth, Salmon, Web Slices and more without fear that unclear licensing agreements will lead to legal problems later. It also means that developers creating innovative new tech specifications to push and pull user data from one site to another can launch them using a turn-key license developed by some of the top legal teams in the business.

As part of the release of the OWFa, Yahoo! and other companies moved forward with open sourcing several specifications and standards. The projects released under the new OWFa include:

And over on the Open Web Foundation blog, DeWitt Clinton notes that there will be more to come:

The Open Web Foundation Agreement is just the first step among many toward a comprehensive, straightforward approach to an open specification development process. In upcoming months, the Open Web Foundation will be developing reusable Contributor License Agreements, which can be adopted by specification communities during the development phase itself, even before a usable specification is completed, and will offer Best Practices guidelines for open development processes.

This is fundamentally a good move that represents the first step in fostering innovation that is not subject to limitations and restrictions posed by other types of licenses. And it opens up the possibilities for developers to aiming to improve and iterate on emerging standards that can have wide or narrow spectrums of implementation. You can find additional coverage on the OWFa and more information about the work of the OWF and its members at the foundation's web site.

Be sure to read the next Standards article: Unix Meets Cloud: Ubuntu Linux Now Ships with Built-in Online Storage APIs