Noms: A Better Way to Store & Share Data

An open source database that’s versioned, forkable, and syncable

CSV: The Pipe

The CSV (comma-separated values) file has a rich history. It’s over 30 years old and has been the de-facto data exchange format. It is resilient because it is simple, different systems are able to understand it, and when in trouble, you can open the file up in a text editor or Excel.

When we were implementing President Obama’s Open Data Executive Order, which made open and machine-readable data the new default for government information, we would encourage agencies to make their data available through a CSV (or if they had the resources an API).

The CSV was easy. The oldest government systems could produce it. Anyone with Excel could export it. It was the stepping stone needed to embrace a culture of openness.

The progress to date has been incredible. Today, there are over 180,000 datasets on Data.gov across health, education, safety, finance, energy, and global development.

CSV is like a pipe. It moves data between point A & B, but since it is just text, developers and data scientists can run into issues when trying to do meaningful things with it.

Noms: The Swiss Army Knife

In a perfect world, when you share data, you can easily view it, verify its integrity, understand what’s changed, use it reliably an application, and keep it in sync.

When I first met Aaron and Raf, they demoed an early version of Noms, and it felt like getting a peek into that perfect world.

Noms — https://github.com/attic-labs/noms

Noms is a database that is versioned. Every change made is added to the historical record. So you can see all the changes made to a particular dataset and compare the changes between different points in time.

Noms is strongly-typed. You can write code against Noms and be confident that it reliably works in your application.

Noms is syncable. There’s only one URL that you need to remember. Syncing pulls down the latest version of the database and it does it efficiently too (only delivering what’s changed.)

Noms will support queries. Sometimes you just want a part of a dataset. With Noms, you will be able to target what you need.


We are data rich in the public and private sectors. We share more data internally and externally than ever before. We need tools and technology that keep up with the growth of data, devices, and applications.

It’s been a joy spending time with the Attic Labs team and seeing Noms come to life. They’ve built a database for a world that is fueled by data.

Take Noms for a spin. It is open source, so if you like it, help shape it.

A few quick links to point you in the right direction: