Here at Mozilla we talk about “The Open Web” a lot. We talk about it all the time. It’s one of our causes. The word “open” appears seven times in our (very short) Manifesto. We have a proposal for a project called Drumbeat which aims to get people acting as “stewards of the open web”.

But what does “open web” actually mean?

Recently my coworker Jinghua asked me what the Open Web means in concrete terms. “Don’t give me abstractions or generalities”, she said, “tell me one specific reason that users should care.”

Daaaang. That’s a good question!

Is “The Open Web” a thing that exists now, or is it an ideal that we are trying to bring into existence? Is the openness or closedness of the web a binary distinction, or a sliding scale? How is it related to open-source software? Is it just a theoretical conceit of us web purists? Above all why is it something that users should care about?

There is not a single answer to this question; there are many answers.

Here’s one: the open web is a world where kids can teach themselves how to hack.

Here’s another: the open web is a world where people can write a subversive-but-legal tool to make U.S. Judicial records freely searchable. (Both blog posts by Atul Varma.)

I’ve been ruminating over some answers of my own; I’ll explain them in future blog posts.