When NIH, or NASA researchers and scientists wanted to publish a lot of information in a way that people could easily get to it and add to it, they simply built, posted and tested their ideas. Because of the groundwork laid in social media technologies, like OpenID they did not have to ask permission, or make any changes to the core operations of the Internet. My guess is other agencies will soon copy them — hundreds of thousands of computer users, then hundreds of millions, creating and sharing content and technology. That’s the Social Web or Web 2.0 or Gov 2.0. Call it what you will — it’s on its way, today in federal, state and local agencies and around the world.
Put another way, we in the open identity community are trying to design each new protocol to be both useful in its own right and a building block available to others. We do not think of protocols as finished products, and we are deliberately exposing the internal architecture to make it easy for others to gain a foothold. This was the antithesis of the attitude of the old closed networks, which actively discouraged any additions or uses they had not sanctioned.
Of course, the process for both publishing ideas and for choosing standards eventually became more formal. Our loose committee meetings are growing larger and organized into what our Foundation calls OpenID Working Groups. In the last two years these groups evolved and transformed a couple of times. It has some hierarchy and formality but not much, and it remains free and accessible to anyone.
OpenID technologies have grown up, too. But the culture that was built up in the beginning has continued to play a strong role in keeping things more open than they might have been. Ideas are accepted and sorted on their merits, with as many ideas rejected by peers as are accepted.
OpenID has a role to play in open government. We hope to help agencies collaborate and citizens interact with their government from where they are today in Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, VeriSign, Plaxo and the hundreds of other accounts they have today.
As we rebuild our economy, I do hope we keep in mind the value of openness, especially in industries that have rarely had it. Whether it’s in health care reform or energy innovation, the largest payoffs will come not from what the stimulus package pays for directly, but from the huge vistas we open up for others to explore.