What the Heck is the Open Web?

Do you toss the term Open Web around? Ever wonder what the heck it means? Me too.

I'm looking for a definition of the Open Web that:
  • Isn't a laundry list of bullet points
  • Is one or two sentences long
  • Doesn't constrain the web from growing in the future (i.e. that it's expansive enough that it's not just defending the status quo but can adapt to new innovations)
I've got my own opinions on these but I'm interested in hearing what you think. Basically, what's the elevator pitch for the Open Web? Its easy to talk to the Converted (tm), but what about when talking to other folks that might not care as much yet?

You get bonus points if you can answer the following:
  • If Adobe were to open source Flex/Flash, or Microsoft Silverlight, would that be the Open Web? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Why should developers care about the Open Web? How about users?
  • How would you define the web itself, again in a way that doesn't constrain it from future growth and development (i.e. "It's a place to publish a bunch of documents" doesn't allow room for deploying applications, as we are seeing with Ajax today).
We toss around the term Open Web a bunch, but I've never seen it succinctly defined. What is it, and why do we support it? I believe its important and worth supporting but it's all a bit fuzzy right now.

Post your thoughts and answers to these questions on this blog post.


Glen Lipka said…
In 1996, I designed an e-commerce UX for Grainger.com. They wanted to tie in with other applications on the web, but the answer was, "No, their systems are closed, so we can't integrate with them".

To me, the open web is when you can connect your application to other applications easily.

Open-ness is about welcome-ness.

You are welcome to use Google Maps API (or countless others) to embed stuff in your app. You are welcome to integrate with lots of systems. When EVERY system has the potential of integration then the web is open.

Anyway, that's my 10 second answer.
Ray Cromwell said…
I think the question has three answers, depending on audience (tier-1 publisher/container/service provider, developer/service consumer, and end user.

The most concise answer I think is available for developers: To consume other people's services or source without red tape. As a developer, I want maximum freedom to borrow and mashup.

For end users, I think it's the flip side. End users care about owning their data, how it is shared, and what privacy rights they have. All trumped by user experience however (yield privacy rights or data ownership if UX is enhanced). This can interfere with the developer's wishes, when freedom to consume data without red tape interferes with data privacy.

For service provides/top tier containers, I think it's a hard sell. If you're a big player, like Microsoft, or Facebook, being truly open is seen as diminishing market power and having a commoditizing effect. If there's no business model, or if you're already playing second fiddle to someone else, then you use open standards to try and undermine your opponents. Cynical, I know, but I definitely have seen companies flip-flop their standards support depending on market position. I'm not suggesting Google does this, and every company has their true believers in openness, even Microsoft, but I think selling the dominant players on Open Web is the hardest sell of the three audiences.

Open Web: Your services, the way I want them. My data, the way I want it.
cdent said…
I gave it a go in one sentence:

The Open Web is a networked system of people and processes that lets those people and processes create, manage, own, give and learn from socially accessible information without requiring allegiance to one or more central controls.

There's a bit more and a stab at the bonus questions on my blog at The Open Web.
Open Web? I'd definitely say it revolves around open source technologies with open documentation that allow anyone interested to create something and share it.
Craig Buchek said…
I think you just need to boil your laundry list down to its essence:

A set of open protocols agreed upon by the widest possible community. Anyone can write servers, clients, content, or apps using these protocols. Currently accepted protocols include HTTP(S), (X)HTML, CSS, and JavaScript/DOM.
Unknown said…
"The Open Web is a networked system of people and processes that lets those people and processes create, manage, own, give and learn from socially accessible information without requiring allegiance to one or more central controls."

I think this is too general. In my experience and in this context, "Open" implies "working with technologies that are not restrained, viralized (if that's a word) or otherwise encumbered by license, patent or other intellectual property claim".

To point out the obvious examples, it means being able to use technologies without fear of dealing with a potential lawsuit (see BT click, Amazon one-click, the JPG dispute, and SCO).

If we have no fear of doing or creating something that might end up with a high-cost litigation service on our hands, then we are Open.
Greg Cerveny said…
Flex Open Source

Open Source Flash Player
cdent said…
@ttrenka, I think my bit about "without requiring allegiance to one or more central controls" addresses your concerns about restraints, viralization, licenses and intellectual property claims.

All those things are, to me, central controls with which I'd rather not have allegiance to get my open webness on.

I agree that my statement is overly general but that was the only way I could hit things like IP concerns without enumerating them all.
keif said…
The "open web" really seems to just be another buzz worthy term, along with "social media" and "proactive synergy."

It's marketing fluff, to describe generalities.

The "Open Web" is the idea of transparency and cooperation. It's open source code and projects so we can mash-up multiple technologies to do cool, new, FUNCTIONAL things.

It's the idea that companies can start using social media sites to engage their customers, and for customers to engage their brands (i.e. twitter has companies watching what people say, and responding).

If "closed" code systems became open source, that would probably open upa large amount of people jumping on board to use/customize/improve them (but it won't happen in a truly "open" way as it's revenue, people!).

Devs should care, because the more data we can play with and manipulate, the more APIs that open up, the more web applications we can create to give the users a better experience (which is why they should care).

Now, "defining the web" - that's like saying "define God." It's a series of tubes (heh). A cloud. It's a living, breathing application that can be used simply as publishing files or text, to creating applications, to engaging people. The web is many things, and I'm only touching on a few.
Unknown said…
The "Open Web" is a realization.
It is a realization that it is alright to share all kinds of information.
It is a realization that the information you create may be found by others, and then improved.
It is a realization that the information comes even before yourself.

It is a realization that The Information itself is the noble cause.

Flash and Silverlight go against this somewhat, as they do not share all of the information they could share (such as the CODE!). However, open source applications written in Flash or Silverlight may sometimes, in my opinion, be considered "open." To not consider such open would be to not consider any web application open simply because they run on Internet Explorer - a platform which is not open.

True, 99.99% of Flash players are the one supplied by Adobe; this is dangerous, and makes the platform, as of right now, very closed. But 70% of users use IE; it used to be >95%. The platform, therefore, does not enter into it overly much, as long as the platform is stable and proven, and it is known that it will continue to be available; Flash meets this criteria... Silverlight, not so much.
Brad, in feb 2007, you pointed out some issues with code-for-money bounty sites.
I was wondering if you knew of a site where someone can say "I'd really like feature XYZ in OpenOffice.org" and put in $20. Then someone else reading the same feature list says "damn I'd love that too, here's another $20".
Over time the pot of money could reach $3000 or more, and someone could take on the job, successful completion could be verified by an independent on the site, and the money transferred.
What do you think of this idea?