Openness in the Era of Social Web

In April of this year, Richard Stallman, free software advocate and one of the original open source advocates, wrote about the "Javascript Trap", warning that obfuscated or complicated Javascript programs are potentially freedom-limiting. His treatise completely misses the point and reveals how little the open, free software movement of the past has to offer us in terms of understanding and ensuring freedom in cloud-based computing.

More recently, several companies attempted to develop their own cloud computing manifesto calling for openness in the industry. Notably missing from its signatories were companies like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft — calling into question the benefits and motivations of "open" initiatives today.

Moreover, Google and a host of other companies have attempted— in efforts like OpenSocial — to take the long, slow road to developing a set of "open" technologies for social networking web gadgets. But is this really an altruistic effort to improve the web or merely intended to upset Facebook's success with a different platform?

Given how much the free, open software movement has achieved to date, I think that it's critical that we take a hard look at the next set of challenges that we will face in maintaining freedom on the social web.

Headshot Photo: 
Chris Messina

Chris Messina is a San Francisco-based advocate of the open web, known for helping to advance such communities as Spread Firefox, BarCamp, coworking, and technology initiatives such as OpenID, OAuth, Activity Streams and microformats. He is on the board of the OpenID Foundation and works for Vidoop on the DiSo Project.


Open web advocate:

BarCamp, Coworking, DiSo;

Can has openness?