OpenCorporates, which has received an initial grant from Alfred P Sloan, one of the funders of Wikipedia, takes its business model from the open source software movement.
Company data that shows the complex relationships between companies and their subsidiaries worldwide is being made available as part of an initiative to place more government data in the public domain.
OpenCorporates, part of the Open Data Institute established by web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, is publishing data on millions of international companies and their subsidiaries – the first time the data has been made freely available.
The move is one of the first concrete actions to follow the G8 summit, where member states signed an Open Data Charter, committing them to make data available in ways that are easily discoverable, usable or understandable by the public.
The OpenCorporates website uses sophisticated analytics technology to map the relationships between companies registered in different jurisdictions, revealing complex networks of ownership.
It is able to present the results graphically in the form of maps or network diagrams, showing the relationships between companies in a way that is easy to understand.
“The site is an important resource for journalists, shareholders and for credit checking. It is also important for procurement officers and lawyers who need to understand conflicts of interests,” said Chris Taggart, chief executive of OpenCorporates.
Drilling into company networks
The company’s analysis of the worldwide interests of the largest US banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, reveals complex networks of ownership, running in some cases 14 companies deep.
It shows the central role of the offshore tax haven, the Cayman Islands, as an international hub for the banking industry’s company networks.