But Data.gov is different. It is primarily for machines, not people, at least as a first step. It is a catalog of various sets of data from government agencies.
And the idea is to offer the data in one of several standardized formats, ranging from a simple text file that can be read by a spreadsheet program to the XML format widely used these days for the exchange of information between Web services. Other data is presented in formats that are meant to feed into mapping programs.
The value of this, of course, is that when information is made available this way, then anyone can analyze it or write a program to do so. The Sunlight Foundation is running a contest to find the best applications that use this data.