Executive Briefing : Open Data

Tim O’Reilly, O’Reilly Media, Inc., Chad Dickerson, Yahoo!.

I have long believe that “data is the Intel Inside” of Web 2.0 applications, the source of competitive advantage and lock in. As a consequence, I also believe that it won’t be long before “open data” becomes as hot-button an issue as open source software has been.

Hot Seat: Chad Dickerson, Yahoo!. Recently, Zoomr, a competitor to Flickr (now owned by Yahoo!) wanted to use Flickr’s own web services API to help users to move their photos from Flickr to Zoomr. Flickr’s been a pioneer in open web services, but they drew the line there. Was this the first shot in the “open data” wars?

Chad quickly runs over the API strategy, commercial as in QOOP or non commercial for average users.

One day they got a request for a commercial key from Zoomr and immediately denied the request by Stewart Butterfield, then it hit TechCrunch and after a lot of public and internal discussion he set forth the Butterfield Discourse which was “we’ll give you a key if you give us one for your app” and this is a good thing for web2.0, having reciprocity of data exchange.

He runs the group for all Y! API and he is telling them all to adopt this attitude across the board
Tim points out that maybe ‘we’ need to mash out an open data agreement, as opposed to an open standards agreement.

He also asks what happens when someone contributes to someone else’s data, like commenting on someone else’s picture, what happens if the original owner removes the data, what happens to the metadata created by the other person? – Chad suggests that everyone in the room needs to answer that question?

Tim asks if Y! has put any thought towards how they use Creative Commons across it’s applications, the answer is yes they have but not much more detail, Flickr is a unique property in Y! so not really relevant.

Tim goes on to say that he thinks it is right that we (the market) need to push on when there is uncertainty as this is how progress is made (reference to Google Library again)

What is the Y! product with the greatest lock-in potential? Chad responds he has no idea as he doesn’t have anything to do with the other apps, Tim rattles on about his recent rant on Googlemail contacts and whats wrong with that, Chad responds it’s a little like the “when did you start beating your wife question?” i.e. they just didn’t think about it when they added a feature exactly how users would want to use it.

What happens when you remove your data from the collective, you still own it but the fact is that it isn’t as worthwhile in isolation, for example take your photos from Flickr and go to Zoomr, it works but it’s like going to a coffee shop and it looks nice and all but none of your friends are there..

We switch to open Q&A:

Q: can I get all my search data out of Y!?

They answer that you can do that now with AttentionTrust.org but they seem to miss the point that the search data is stored in two places there and Y! still have a copy

Q: do you see a growing problem with widgets along the lines of open data?

Chad tells us that since Y! map API uses Flash and not Javascript then MySpace users go to Y! rather than “other map APIs” you need to look for where competitive advangtage lies in the technology you are choosing, doesn’t seem to address the actual question though

Q: thoughts on how you bring in something like Flickr to the Y! community and what you’ve learned?

Chad responds you have to respect the brand which is why it stayed Flickr and that the more important aspect is that Flickr has changed the way things are done at Y!, Tim quips “the inmates have taken over the Asylum”

Q: what about historical data, government records for example?

Tim responds that there are huge historical DBs that need to come online but it will be hard and take time, where there are obvious targets, hacker activism will pick on the right targets but otherwise you need to find some idealogical soul to do tha hard work, but it will happen

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