Making “Open” Easier

*Editors note: As posted earlier on the Yahoo! Developer Network blog. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Open is at the core of many Yahoo! initiatives and products. Over the past two years Yahoo! has been hard at work to change how we develop products and interact with our developer community. In addition to being avid supporters of Open Source, we participated and adopted community-based specifications such as OpenID and OAuth, and were a founding member of the OpenSocial and OpenID Foundations.  As you can see, we love Open.

But Open isn’t always easy.

Whenever we (or other companies) engage in a collaborative effort with a wider community, we are faced not only with technical challenges, but with the complex reality of intellectual property law. Patents, copyright, and trademarks are not what geek dreams are made of. This is why we have actively supported the creation of the Open Web Foundation, an organization dedicated to the creation of an open, free, and community-driven environment for the development of technical specifications:

The Open Web Foundation was founded to help developer communities collaborate and share technical innovation on the web, bringing to the world of formats and protocols the same successful grassroots approaches established by the open source community. Modeled after the Apache Software Foundation and Creative Commons, the Open Web Foundation seeks to facilitate the creation and implementation of specifications with legal agreements that make such work simple, safe, and sustainable.


For the past year, the Open Web Foundation Legal Committee has been hard at work on a new legal agreement for licensing of open specifications. While Open Source software enjoys a wide range of licenses for making software freely available, specifications and standards are usually licensed under a complex set of rules and conditions. These licenses are hard to read and spread over many pages full of terms even many lawyers don’t fully understand. There was also no suitable standalone agreement available for companies and communities to use when making their work available, forcing them into long and costly legal negotiation between the contributors.

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.

But what makes this agreement even more valuable today, is a commitment by a group of leading companies and individual contributors to apply it to a growing list of specifications. Today, Yahoo! is joining Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and others in making available the following specifications under the OWFa:

OAuth Core 1.0Revision A
OAuth WRAP 0.9
Simple Web Tokens 0.9

We are also releasing the Media RSS (mRSS) specification under the Open Web Foundation Agreement. Media RSS is an RSS extension used to syndicate rich media content (instead of just text). The specification is used when providers of media content want to share that content with a third party, usually a search engine like Yahoo! Video Search. We are also in the process of transitioning the mRSS specification to the capable hands of the RSS Advisory Board for future development.

This is just the first step in what we hope will be a new path for open collaboration and innovation on the web. The best innovation happens when we let our talented engineers and product managers solve problems. This is one less thing for them to worry about.

Eran Hammer-Lahav

Director of Standards Development, Yahoo!
President, The Open Web Foundation

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