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The openness debate hits data portability

While vendors care a lot about things like data portability, it turns out that customers really don't.

I had to stifle a laugh (or was it a yawn?) when reading "So Open It's Closed" on Elias Bizannes's blog. Bizannes is a leader in the data portability movement, which movement seems to be undergoing all the growing pains that open source once had (and still does, I suppose).

Consider Bizannes' plea for true and well-defined openness in data portability standards:

It's time some boundaries were set on what is effectively the brand of open. It's also time the term is defined, because quite frankly, it's lost all meaning now. I've listed some criteria - but what we really need is some consensus on what 'the' criteria for open should be.

Um, yeah. Good luck with that! See, we in open source have been through this (attribution/badgeware debate, anyone?), and we resolved it by throwing up our hands in despair and moving on.

Oddly enough, that was probably the right thing to do, as the only people that really care about such things are the vendors involved. Customers don't care, as a group of New York City-based CTOs told me recently. They just want software to work and vendors to focus on making them work, not making fetishes of whatever the fetish-du-jour may be.

Personally, I care a lot about data portability, for all the reasons implicit in Tim O'Reilly's contention that "the company with the most data wins." I want to be able to move my data to another team (though, in reality, I probably won't, for all the reasons that will make that team the winning one).

But while Bizannes and other data portability people will debate the topic of openness, the reality is that the debate has far less value than supposed. Ultimately, customers choose, and customers prove to be far less finicky about such things than vendors.