The goal of the new foundation is to set out the actual data specifications, legal structures around data portability and in helping to evangelize set formats. Saad says that the initiative is different to the Data Portability project in that it is details oriented around specific technology and legal implementations rather than the broader evangelizing effort that has come out of Data Portability:
It seems like the foundation is well placed to provide a much needed level of oversight and legal protection for fledgling open standards. These standards will ultimately contribute to the ‘data portability’ vision of an inter-operable, standards-based web of data.
While Saad is diplomatic in his response, I can’t help but think that the efforts around standards and data portability being split into multiple groups is the ultimate definition of irony. The Data Portability project has seen great results today with companies such as Google, MySpace and Facebook participating and backing its charter. The results to date have been applications such as Friend Connect and an overall establishment of goodwill between companies who previously competed with their own data and user silo’s.
A long running problem in messaging and consistency from advocates of both open source and standards has been the duplicate and overlapping efforts. The best recent example was the split within the RSS camp that resulted in a new Atom syndication format, which in the long-term did not manage to displace RSS and instead divided evangelism efforts. While a similar split along technology lines does not exist in the case of the new Open Data Foundation and the Data Portability project, it would seem that a more united and single-branded front would be more appropriate considering the shared agenda of both camps.
The division of labor seems to be that the new Open Data Foundation will focus on technical specs and formats as a form of umbrella group covering protocol specific efforts such as RSS, Atom, OpenID, oAuth etc. We don’t have the details of what is being announced yet, but the initial response from Saad does not bode well for an initiative that has managed to achieve so much in so little time.