Creative Commons (CC) pioneered broad awareness of the need and value of open content publishing and sharing. By providing a set of licenses that let authors clearly choose how and under what conditions to make their content freely available, CC also made it easier.
Open content is dependent on the formats used to publish it for how “open” it truly is. Open content published in a proprietary format supported only by a single-vendor proprietary application is only as open as that single-vendor chooses to make it. E.g. open content authored in Microsoft Visio and published in its default VSD format is not “open” to Macintosh users (even converters have problems). Such open content is essentially held hostage by the sole application (and the sole platform family that it runs on) that supports that format. In addition, if the sole vendor in this case chooses to stop supporting that sole application, then open content in that format becomes dead content. More on that in a future post on “data longevity“.
Content is most easily, reliably, and broadly shared when the formats used by such content are as open as possible. Truly open formats encourage the maximum amount of documentation (from syndicated blog posts to professionally published books), and interoperable implementations (from open source to proprietary for-profit) of such formats. I encourage everyone developing open standards to make them as open as possible, by taking the same steps we have taken with microformats, and thus better enabling open content, and the data portability thereof.