From A New Coalition For Open Annotation

hypothesis is a non-profit organization working on enabling “a conversation over the world’s knowledge,” by building an open platform where people can annotate anything online. And today, December 1, Project is announcing an exciting new initiative. Here are details from the Press Advisory:


On December 1, Project will announce an initiative that brings together over 35 scholarly publishers, platforms and technology partners with the goal of building an open annotation layer over all knowledge.


Web pioneers have long imagined collaborative annotation as a native and universal capability of the Web.  For over 20 years, starting with the Mosaic browser in 1993, many projects have experimented with approaches to this.  Yet in 2015, we’re still stuck with the same proprietary commenting systems, only available on a small piece of the Web.

In the last few years a small community has been working to change that.  Their goal is to standardize a model for an “annotation”, the unit of conversation that this paradigm enables, and to build it into the very fabric of the Web.  Their efforts led in the fall of 2014, to a formal Working Group within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the standards body for the Web. Much progress has been made, and many implementations are mature enough now to begin deployment.

Who has joined this effort, and why?

The members of this coalition represent some of the world’s largest and most important scholarly publishers and knowledge platforms — essential services such as HathiTrust, JSTOR, arXiv and Wiley.  They realize that a robust and interoperable conversation layer can transform scholarship, enabling personal note taking, peer review, copy editing, post publication discussion, journal clubs, classroom uses, automated classification and much more.  They understand that this layer must evolve as an open, interoperable and shared capability aligned with the motivations and interests of scholars and researchers.

What are members agreeing to?

Coalition members are agreeing to come together to begin the exploration and experimentation required to understand how best to implement this interoperable layer over their content. This capability would be fully open to any compliant service provider the user wishes to store their annotations with. They are also agreeing to collaborate openly with their peers, to share experiences, and to work together towards mutual objectives. Finally, members have all agreed to be open about their participation and lend their names to the effort.

What will the coalition do?

Today, coalition members are in different phases of engagement.  Some have already implemented annotation natively and are working to increase adoption and develop new uses, others are at the very beginning of the process. Objectives for the first year are to begin socializing the progress that’s been made, to identify opportunities, to work through potential challenges, and, for many, to begin the process of design and experimentation necessary to implement annotation in their own context.

Why Standards?

Interoperability means that annotations created by one client can be viewed by another, and that they can be stored on any compatible backend server. Standards help ensure that solution and service providers compete, and that users win.

Open to others

The coalition is open to any publisher, platform, library or technology organization that shares its vision and objectives and wants to participate.  Interested parties can email: for more information.

Coalition home page

Information about the coalition, including scheduled activities and a video containing interviews with various members is available at the coalition home page:

Complete list of coalition members


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