A new OASIS committee to advance the Open Data Protocol as a standard has been proposed by a number of leading high-tech companies, including Citrix, IBM, Microsoft, WSO2 and others.

The OData protocol is built on HTTP, JSON and AtomPub, and is used to help developers build cross-platform applications that can access and exchange data. It exists in both an HTML version and a JSON version.

AtomPub is based on Atom, which was originally created as an alternative to RSS, according to WSO2 CTO Paul Fremantle. AtomPub is the extension of Atom that allows you to not only read blogs and data, but write them as well. Now, with AtomPub, one can write all kinds of data to a server, he explained.

OData offers “a common, simple, RESTful, JSON format to open up data” on the Web, he said, noting that many tech-savvy cities, as well as Facebook and Netflix, expose data via an OData service. It allows interaction for people via a browser, and for application calling via an API.

“You can subscribe to changes, for example, and other things fit the dual [human or machine] usage,” added Fremantle. “OData fills a niche of more general data access, but with enough schema and metadata to make it very useful. I see it almost like SQL for the Web.”

Microsoft has created a tool called OData Explorer that can be pointed at any OData source, list the public data within, and then give access to the columns and rows of that data source, Fremantle said.

Microsoft will contribute seven OData specification components that are currently under the Microsoft Open Specification Promise to the OASIS technical committee. “To accomplish the goal of open data for the open Web, we have seen a push for support to enable access to and use of data across platforms, applications and devices,” said Jean Paoli, Microsoft Open Technologies president, in a statement announcing the committee. “Taking steps to standardize OData through OASIS allows developers to act on the data in a more well-defined way.”

OData already is being used in Android, DB2, Drupal, Informix, iOS, Java, Joomla, MySQL, Node.js, Microsoft .NET, PHP, SQL Server and Windows Phone 7, according to the announcement.