Major milestones: 40m companies, 50+ jurisdictions, moving out of alpha, getting respectable

We did it – last week we went over the 40 million companies mark, with the addition of our 52st jurisdiction: Mauritius. As well as being quite a significant milestone in itself, we’re also using this as an excuse to replace that alpha tag that’s graced the top right hand corner of OpenCorporates since we launched with a beta one (we’re still rapidly developing, after all).

In truth, we should have replaced it some time ago, as not only have we become the largest open database of companies in the world by far, we’re also being increasingly recognised by (for want of a better word) the establishment. We’ve previously written about our work with the UK government, and with the EU/W3c’s work on a business vocabulary, but recently we were also appointed to the advisory panel (pdf) for the Financial Stability Board‘s work on a global legal entity identifier. Like the EU/W3c work this is important for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s a recognition that the problems of finding, understanding and influencing companies is a global problem that can’t be solved by the regulators and officials alone. If the community – and by community I mean open data community, journalists, civil society, innovators, and even companies themselves – isn’t empowered with the tools it needs to do this, we’ll end up with not just innovation atrophying as large companies entrench their position, but democracy being marginalised.

Second, it’s a recognition of the important and pioneering work that OpenCorporates has done in this area, on resources that are, frankly, what the big business-data companies spend on tea and biscuits.

Third, it’s a sign that these big institutions – check out the Financial Stability Board’s website for an idea of what we’re talking about – are beginning (and I’d stress the beginning) to embrace the concept of open data, and the dangerous effects of the existing asymmetries of access to data. In fact, our inclusion is doubly impressive, given that we’ve written publicly and forcefully about company identifiers, and can be relied upon to say what we think is right, rather than going along with the cosy consensus.

And this recognition is important too, because it says that open is right, and thus begins to isolate those company registers who are not interested in transparency, but only in selling the data to those with deep pockets – in Europe countries such as Italy, Spain and Greece come to mind, none of which even allows free and open searches to check the existence of a company, and are even less transparent than most tax havens.