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Hey kids – get off of my lawn

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Back at the end of July, Microsoftee Dare Obasanjo attacked the Open Web Foundation for being a bunch of kids fresh out of college who hadn’t heard of IETF or other standards bodies. I dashed off a post calling on Dare to revert to his previously ecumenical ways of supporting bottom-up standards development, and to stop his partisan attacks on these Animal House attempts and their predatory sponsors from Google et al. The response in comments took me to task for being an idiot but others were not so sure.

Flash forward to a few days ago, when another post by Obasanjo popped up as a pingback linked to the phrase “personal attacks by Techcrunch” with more of the same, this time focusing on the Portable Contacts API promulgated by OWF co-conspirator Chris Messina and Plaxo’s Joseph Smarr. The money graf:

If anything, I’m concerned by the growing number of interdependent specs that seem poised to have a significant impact on the Web and yet are being defined outside of formal standards bodies in closed processes funded by big companies. For example, about half of the references in the Portable Contacts API specs are to IETF RFCs while the other half are to specs primarily authored by Google and Yahoo! employees outside of any standards body (OpenSocial, OAuth, OpenSearch, XRDS-Simple, etc). I’ve previously questioned the rise of semi-closed, vendor driven consortiums in the area of Web specifications given that we have perfectly good and open standards bodies like IETF for defining the Open Web but this led to personal attacks on TechCrunch with no real reasons given for why Web standards need to go in this direction. I find that worrying.

I called Messina up and arranged for he and I to have a conversation today on The Gillmor Gang, where we touched on the history and attitudes of Obasanjo in the context of what clearly is something too tempting to be left alone. Messina goes into some depth about the rationale for OWF and its genesis, mostly as the outgrowth of what Chris calls work done to solve small problems. OWF, as Messina suggests, is an attempt to help leverage legal issues common to many of the “specs authored by Google and Yahoo! employees outside of any standards body” to help move these useful tools from point solution to specs able to be bought into by big companies or even the aforementioned IETF.

I’ll let Chris explain the details of Portable Contacts and much more, but, though I tried to broker some conversation directly between Obasanjo and the college kids to bridge the gap between them, here I’ll just parse that first sentence of Dare’s:

    growing number of interdependent specs – cleverly intertwined to shut out big company market force standards broadsides

    poised to have a significant impact on the Web – threatening to overwhelm the right way of doing things with subversive amateur disruption of the Wild Wild Web

    defined outside formal standards bodies – note the silent use of the word “open”

    in closed processes funded by big companies – as opposed to the formal standards bodies funded by big companies.

Let me get this straight. These things are working, they grow from the grassroots into useful tools, we should go back to the good old days where market leaders create standards bodies like WS-I to shut out competitors’ work, and these homegrown efforts are closed because the same market leaders decline to participate when invited.

And a personal note: if using past words to underline how different an agenda seems to have emerged is a personal attack, then perhaps I’ll take it as a backhanded compliment that my perspective may be poised to have a significant impact on the Web too. I hope you’re right, Dare. Microsoft can’t afford to be anything but transparent about its interpretation of what the meaning of open is, with only three weeks and change to go to Mesh and the Windows Cloud’s promised open platform debut at the PDC.

  • http://www.sriramkrishnan.com Sriram Krishnan

    [Disclaimer – Work for Microsoft but nothing remotely connected to any Contacts API :-) ]
    Steve – you’re doing Dare a disservice by not quoting the full para. His essential point is that these standards are built on closed standards evolved by companies behind closed doors. You’re basically arguing the same point he is,

  • http://www.sriramkrishnan.com Sriram Krishnan

    [Disclaimer – Work for Microsoft but nothing remotely connected to any Contacts API :-) ]
    Steve – you’re doing Dare a disservice by not quoting the full para. His essential point is that these standards are built on closed standards evolved by companies behind closed doors. You’re basically arguing the same point he is,

  • Derrick O

    I read Dare’s comments on Contacts API and have not come to your conclusions. Please concentrate your arguments on the facts of the case, not misleading paraphrases. You are coming off like someone who is being paid to discredit Dare, not offer convincing, credible arguments why you do not agree with him.

  • Derrick O

    I read Dare’s comments on Contacts API and have not come to your conclusions. Please concentrate your arguments on the facts of the case, not misleading paraphrases. You are coming off like someone who is being paid to discredit Dare, not offer convincing, credible arguments why you do not agree with him.

  • http://blog.broadbandmechanics.com/2008/10/october-7th-08-blogging Marc’s Voice » Blog Archive » October 7th, ‘08 blogging

    […] I certainly agree with Steve Gillmor in his criticism of Dare Obasanjo’s attack on the OWF.  I think the OWF is getting real work done. Not clear why Dare is acting like such a crumugeon – but I hope he stops it. […]

  • http://blog.broadbandmechanics.com/2008/10/october-7th-08-blogging Marc’s Voice » Blog Archive » October 7th, ‘08 blogging

    […] I certainly agree with Steve Gillmor in his criticism of Dare Obasanjo’s attack on the OWF.  I think the OWF is getting real work done. Not clear why Dare is acting like such a crumugeon – but I hope he stops it. […]

  • http://www.techcrunch.com michael arrington

    glad he’s focused on you instead of me. I’ll keep a lookout for more wikipedia attacks like before:

    http://www.crunchnotes.com/2007/01/24/microsoft-employees-wikipedia-attack-on-techcrunch/

  • http://www.techcrunch.com michael arrington

    glad he’s focused on you instead of me. I’ll keep a lookout for more wikipedia attacks like before:

    http://www.crunchnotes.com/2007/01/24/microsoft-employees-wikipedia-attack-on-techcrunch/

  • http://dkmj.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/hey-kids-get-off-of-my-lawn/ Hey kids - get off of my lawn « mormors-hallon

    […] Hey kids – get off of my lawn Hey kids – get off of my lawn […]

  • http://dkmj.wordpress.com/2008/10/08/hey-kids-get-off-of-my-lawn/ Hey kids - get off of my lawn « mormors-hallon

    […] Hey kids – get off of my lawn Hey kids – get off of my lawn […]

  • http://www.jroller.com/shareme Fred Grott

    I am reminded of a battle between SOAP and Restful ..I think we know who won..

  • http://www.jroller.com/shareme Fred Grott

    I am reminded of a battle between SOAP and Restful ..I think we know who won..

  • http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/12/the-prickly-prince-strikes-again/ The Prickly Prince Strikes Again

    […] something the Obasanjo had to say over on TechCrunchIT, which he immediately characterized as a personal attack. A few days later- zap! – he finds three posts that aren’t all roses and butterflies and […]

  • http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/12/the-prickly-prince-strikes-again/ The Prickly Prince Strikes Again

    […] something the Obasanjo had to say over on TechCrunchIT, which he immediately characterized as a personal attack. A few days later- zap! – he finds three posts that aren’t all roses and butterflies and […]

  • marc

    If you send a guy calling the Open Web Foundation a “bunch of kids fresh out of college” + has a Wikipedia attack on his record this should be enough reason to silence this daring Dare. Instead…Microsoft pays him to engage in online conversations. Yeah, we are listing Microsoft and we are listening between the lines.

  • marc

    If you send a guy calling the Open Web Foundation a “bunch of kids fresh out of college” + has a Wikipedia attack on his record this should be enough reason to silence this daring Dare. Instead…Microsoft pays him to engage in online conversations. Yeah, we are listing Microsoft and we are listening between the lines.

  • http://hollyswanson.com/?p=10976 The Prickly Prince From Microsoft Strikes Again | Holly Swanson

    […] something the Obasanjo had to say over on TechCrunchIT, which he immediately characterized as a personal attack. A few days later- zap! – he finds three posts that aren’t all roses and butterflies and […]

  • http://hollyswanson.com/?p=10976 The Prickly Prince From Microsoft Strikes Again | Holly Swanson

    […] something the Obasanjo had to say over on TechCrunchIT, which he immediately characterized as a personal attack. A few days later- zap! – he finds three posts that aren’t all roses and butterflies and […]

  • Henry Work

    Second test, steve.

  • Henry Work

    Second test, steve.

  • http://www.headlice.org Dr. Otto Van DerWahl

    I have done a careful analysis of both arguments and can objectively conclude that Mr. Steve is getting worked up about nothing. Mr. Dare is not very pleasant to read, however.

  • http://www.headlice.org Dr. Otto Van DerWahl

    I have done a careful analysis of both arguments and can objectively conclude that Mr. Steve is getting worked up about nothing. Mr. Dare is not very pleasant to read, however.

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