[OSGeo-Discuss] Re: idea for an OSGeo project -- a new, open data format

Frank Warmerdam warmerdam at pobox.com
Wed Nov 14 08:24:49 PST 2007

P Kishor wrote:
> I find two problems with Shapefiles -- one, that it is not in public
> domain (I am not even sure of what licensing there is on it), and
> while ESRI is not likely to pull a Unisys on us, it just is
> philosophically better to free if possible. 


I think this is a red herring.  A file format is not normally considered
copyrightable.  Generally speaking the only way to control a file format
is through patents (for instance on compression methods or some fancy
spatial indexing) and through trademarks on the format name.  There is
no apparent such issues with shapefiles.  While the Shapefile format may
not have been developed by an open process, nor is it (as far as I know)
a dejure standard, but it is as open as any format.

I think we need to focus on the technical failings of existing formats,
and ensure a new format is widely usable (no strings attached).

There were also questions about SDF format.  As I see it, one failing of the
SDF format is that there isn't a published specification (that I'm aware of)
and it is a complex enough format that it would be challenging to build a
complete distinct library for the format (in Java for instance).  Also, the
format is really an evolving format.  But, I still think SDF is a good

I think, so far, there isn't a strong enough motivation in the community
to develop a new format that does everything I want.  So (I think) a
"green field" design is unlikely to get past the "standards wanking"
stage that SteveC always goes out of his way to deride.

Best regards,
I set the clouds in motion - turn up   | Frank Warmerdam, warmerdam at pobox.com
light and sound - activate the windows | http://pobox.com/~warmerdam
and watch the world go round - Rush    | President OSGeo, http://osgeo.org

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