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Open Data

There are a lot of people worried about “open data”, like Matt Asay and Tim O’Reilly.

Of course, they call free software “open source” and they think the lack of open data it is a big deal with companies like Google threatening to control what links we click on and companies like Facebook using free software but not letting you easily migrate your data to Myspace, etc.

But I disagree. The biggest problem with Google is their lack of support for free software. They’ve only started releasing stuff in the last few years, and a lot of it is the plumbing code, not cool the stuff that AI researchers of all kinds would be digging over. Perhaps it is because people have been talking about “open data” instead of free software. Even if you could export data from Google’s search servers, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to make sense of it if you didn’t have the accompanying software.

The free software battle is much more important than the open data battle. It is not really that hard to get your data out of Facebook or out of Amazon EC2. It is your data and you put it in there. And this can anyway be solved by a few standards or even some free import / export code.

The open data movement should be a (small) part of the free software movement.

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