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

P Kishor punk.kish at gmail.com
Wed Nov 14 08:16:46 PST 2007

On 11/14/07, Frank Warmerdam <warmerdam at pobox.com> wrote:
> 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.
> Puneet,
> 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 never (I think I never did) argued that Shapefile is not open. I
argued that it is not Free. I could be wrong.

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

Very rightly so. In my view Shapefile lacks robust attribute data
storage and retrieval capabilities. Others have come up with different
deficiencies as well.

> 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
> candidate.
> 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.

And, if the "talk" about creating a new format dies, or doesn't get
past beyond the talk stage, because there isn't a strong motivation
for it then so be it. At least we got the discussion going, and at
least more than a few chimed up with what they would like to see in a
new open AND free data format.

Perhaps, as someone suggested on the list, maybe someone will get it
in his/her head to work on one, and when it gets to the
"showing-to-the-public" stage, they will show it. Maybe it will
matter, maybe it won't.

At the very least we ended up with a wiki page full of desired specs. :-)

Puneet Kishor
Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo)
Summer 2007 S&T Policy Fellow, The National Academies

More information about the Discuss mailing list