[geo-discuss] [okfn-discuss] on Open Formats

Rufus Pollock rufus.pollock at okfn.org
Mon Oct 15 19:07:50 UTC 2007

Jo Walsh wrote:
> 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,

I think this sounds a great idea. One of the lacunaes in the Open 
Knowledge/Data Definition has always been the fact that item 4. Absence 
of Technological Restriction refers explicitly to 'open data format' but 
leaves this undefined.

We originally had a dedicated project on the 'open formats/standards' 
issue entitled the 'Information Accessibility Initiative':


This has been rather dormant of late but the wiki 
(http://okfn.org/iai/wiki) still contains a lot of useful information.

I'd also point to Georg Greve's recent post:


>> 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

Absolutely, as is written on the IAI home page:

"The IAI's aim is to promote awareness and use of open formats to ensure 
that access to information is not needlessly hampered by technological 

> 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 entirely agree that open formats/standards are an essential necessary 
condition for interoperability and the health of the open source 
eco-system however there importance is wider than that as they are also 
crucial for a healthy and competitive /proprietary/ software/knowledge 

> 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.

I think this is a great idea and would happily be a contributor. Perhaps 
it could be set up at:


or (more verbosely) at:



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