[geo-discuss] on Open Formats

Jo Walsh jo at frot.org
Fri Oct 12 16:59:46 UTC 2007

dear all,

There has been a bit of discussion in the open source geo community
about the precedent and need for open file formats; partly prompted 
by the Samba project's involvement in the European Commision's
antitrust case against Microsoft, on the lack of "interoperability
information". http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20070917053717322

The question of "open file formats" can be hard to take a public
position on because it can be so implicitly "anti-", provocative of
large companies. Perhaps an Open Format Definition could be a good
place to start, providing a way to think about the problem
constructively. As Lorenzo wrote,

> We have the idea there are many formats out there that are largely 
> adopted as standards, but they are not, that let theirowners 
> act as monopolist. We would like a mature debate ... We should >
> invite companies, institution, universities to collaborate

This excerpt IRC dialogue conveys a lot:

    strk:    can I make GDAL read DWG ?
    FrankW:	I would be thrilled, especially if you could
		do it without the ODA libraries.
    FrankW:	You would be a hero!
    strk:   why can't I ? What's stopping this innovation
	    which would make me an hero bringing on ?
    FrankW:	Presumably you aren't willing to spend 10-20
		man years on the effort without funding.
    strk:   do you see a problem here ?
    strk:   how man-years would it be if the DWG specs were
   	    available ?
    FrankW:	Obviously much less.
    strk:   so, what's this tax on innovation ?

As Frank put it "open file formats are critical to interoperability 
and the open source ecosystem", and collectively we can attempt to
take "pro-competition and pro-interoperability actions"

I see the draft Open Service Definition work at
http://opendefinition.org/osd/ and i would be interested in setting up
something like it for Open Formats. I would also like to find out who
else is feeling the pain on this, with commonsense to contribute.



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