Data Formats

Why proprietary data formats are bad:

bq. “You should have the right to own your own information. It’s your intellectual capital and you worked hard to produce it for your citizens. Sun doesn’t own it, Microsoft doesn’t own it, you own it, and that means it should be living in a nice, long-lived, non-proprietary data format that isn’t anyone’s competitive weapon.

>> ‘Tim Bray’:

And that’s why open source is the future. If nobody but Henry Ford _(and Daimler etc.)_ knew how to make cars and they refused to publish technical manuals than cars would be extremely expensive and we’d still be riding horses.

Interesting discussion at ‘Scoblezier about this’: See the ‘comments thread’:

bq. Possibly because you may want to communicate with someone who can’t deal with that format. At the point where you need to send data to someone else, and that person can’t/won’t accept your proprietary format – your effective productivity drops.

>> James Robertson

bq.. *With each move, a lot of that cleverness gets whittled away.* I end up with a text file of contact details because, really, in the end, that’s what I carry from machine to machine to pda to ipod. I could attach a lot of extra, really interesting data to that, but it’d never make it from one app to the next. A JPEG of my friends face and her birthday are just temporary blips as that data moves into a cool new app, gets these things added, then has them stripped away as they move into the next app.

One solution to this is to always stay with one app: and that’s definitely something MS have provided for, and works *really* hard to provide. It just wasn’t a behaviour I saw much of in the people I spoke to. I don’t think that’s generally true; but who knows? Maybe as time goes on, it becomes more true for more people. People didn’t believe there could be another app on the desktop in 1994. A year later, there was the browser, gurning away on their screens? How much of your past life did you manage to get into OneNote?[1] How much will make it from OneNote to whatever you use next (if you don’t stay with OneNote)?

>> Danny O Brien

fn1. Insert your favourite application here.

3 thoughts on “Data Formats”

  1. Open source is not necessarily the answer here. All that is needed is proprietary program such as Photoshop or Word documenting their file formats or better yet, using XML to allow interchange of data between each other.

    I’m pretty sure big companies keep their latest engine and car designs guarded pretty well even today. Cars are cheaper today because of explosive competition, not because Ford decided to write technical manuals. Someone would have come along and took it apart and figured out how it works eventually. DMCA is a whole different beast, though.

    I don’t think Open Source is the future, it’s bussiness model baffles me. The one that stands between purley software development companies is the intellectual property that they own i.e the code and designs they produce. If they give that away for free, how are they going to pay their bills?

  2. You’re right, I was just exaggerating somewhat.

    Open Source has a very obvious business model. 70 percent, or more than 7 trillion dollars of the biggest economy in the world is comprised of the service industry. What is software, if not a service? With ever increasing alternatives to almost every software ‘good’ out there, their intrisnic value as a product is heading south.

    The real money is in the service contracts, especially for industry. Computing is not just about using MS Word and Excel. In the networked future, managing computing resources is going to become increasingly complex. The software might be free, but that doesn’t mean business don’t need people to run and maintain it.

  3. Open Source is really a future, I doubt not, but not of all but of some and would remain with them alone. No one can stop someone from dreaming. Apart from XML, XHTML and CSS have been around since 1998. was the first XHTML/CSS compliant search engine which is now shutdown even. There is increased awareness of all these things but open source can’t keep up with the proprietary processes (Haseeb, pardon me for including Processes beside your suggested ones: code and design).

    Linux has also been around for ages and so other open source software. Their numbers have increased but when they really get bigger enough to outsmart the rest of the world, the Proprietary world would have gone even further ahead. I am not sure why Open Source goes crazy over contemplating they are the most hip thing ever happened to mankind. Internet did help them bring their agendas across the boards but as Haseeb said prices of cars are cheaper because of the competition and few other forces behind rather than the few manuals put up by Ford et al. Check the story of Toyota’s recent move of building cars in various continents with same process etc. So, even if the software or the application comes with open source code, its penetration would remain restricted for some years (read decades).

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