I’ll be attending the BRM as part of the US delegation, leaving for Geneva a week from today. I am awed by the security apparatus which is being rolled out to ensure the integrity of the open standards process. Photo ID requirements, badged access to the meeting room, prohibitions against cameras and recording devices, no observers, no press. Truly, this is what open standards are all about.
Our delegation has been warned that there will be a dangerous group of agitators at the event and we may need to walk past them to get to the meeting room, and we should not lend our support in any fashion to this event, which includes such known disruptive elements as Vint Cerf, Håkon Wium Lie, Bob Sutor, and Andy Updegrove. Eyes front, do not look to the left, do not look to the right.
I’m certainly impressed that JTC1 is taking the BRM process so seriously, and everyone is so concerned with the integrity of the process. But I must wonder where all this attention was when NB’s were reporting to JTC1 that OOXML was too large to review under Fast Track procedures? Where was the concern when NB’s were objecting that the proposal contradicted numerous international standards? Where were the precautions when committees were being stuffed, and new NB’s were joining JTC1 only days before the ballot ended? Who was watching out for the integrity of the process then? Why is an OFE panel discussion on “Standards and the Future of the Internet” by international experts on the subject a threat to the international standards system, but no one in JTC1 even blinked when Côte-d’Ivoire joined JTC1 as a P-member three days before the end of a 6-month standardization process and voted “Yes” without comments on a 6,000 page proposal?
In other news, Martin Bekkelund has a look at some of the much vaunted “support” for OOXML on the Mac. Despite the claims, the support is quite underwhelming. As Gertrude Stein said, “There is no there there”. (That probably won’t translate well, so for my non-native English-speaking friends, trust me, that was hilarious.)
From ZDNet Australia and Brett Winterford comes a summary of some analysis by IP law practitioners and academics of OOXML and IPR. “Can Microsoft be trusted on OOXML covenants?” My summary: individuals, small companies and open source projects are roadkill.
Google searches for “ODF” and “OpenDocument” or even “noooxml” are now returning sponsored links with phrases like “Learn the truth about the standard for interoperability” that lead you to a pro-OOXML petition on Microsoft’s faux OOXML community site. For example, try this query.
Let’s see if I understand how this pay-per-click system works. Every time I click these sponsored links, money gets transferred out of some pro-OOXML supporter’s bank account and is sent to Google? These seems the expensive route to go, but there is some logic to it. A look at Google Trends shows that Google queries for “ODF” far outnumber queries for “OOXML”.
On the other side, at the real <NO>OOXML petition, the count stands at 82,422 signatures. Apparently they did not need to trick people into visiting their web site.
Three ODF applications in the news this week.
Also, CNet TV puts OpenOffice.org in the #1 slot in their “Top 5 Best downloads of 2007“.
As reported by <NO>OOXML, the OpenDoc Society has an interesting tease in their February newsletter about a proposal “under investigation” by an “ODF standards group” within Microsoft to add better support to MS Office for ODF. Interesting.
Get it while you can. Microsoft is making their legacy binary format documentation available for download. This timely disclosure comes a few month after they silently disabled access to many of their legacy formats in Office 2003 SP3.
My advice — download these binary formats, burn them to CD and store them in a safe place. Over the years Microsoft has made these formats available for download (ca 1996), put them on MSDN CD’s (ca 1998), then added restrictive terms that specifically forbade use by competitors (ca 1999), removed the documentation entirely from the web and MSDN CD’s (ca 2000), made the formats available under commercial license only, made a RF license available only after filling out an intrusive questionnaire and only when the use was “complementary to Office” (ca 2005), to the present download terms. So get them now, since there are no guarantees on how long they will remain available this time.
In any case, it is good to have this material available once again. We now have a file format specification, controlled exclusively by Microsoft, with all sorts of quirks and bugs necessary to be an accurate and compatible description of the billions of existing Microsoft Office documents, available for anyone to download and implement under terms granted by Microsft’s Open Specification Promise. In fact, the observant reader will note that the same could be said about OOXML. But why should either be an ISO Standard? They both remain a description of the anomalous quirks of a single vendor’s proprietary products, with no generality or applicability to other uses.
In fact, if a claim is made for needing ISO standardization, the better claim should be given to the legacy binary formats, since they indeed are widely implemented, and are used for billions of legacy documents. Microsoft would not even need to pad their résumé with toy implementations. The binary formats are implemented in everything from MS Office, to OpenOffice, to Lotus SmartSuite to Lotus Symphony, to Corel WordPerfect Office, to KOffice, Google Docs & Spreadsheets, to Apple iWork, to MindJet. In fact, for every partial implementation of OOXML that Microsoft claims, we could point to dozens of fuller implementations of the legacy binary formats.
So why the rush to make an ISO standard for OOXML? I wonder if instead we should be taking Adobe’s example and standardizing the existing binary formats, as insurance for long-term access to the legacy base of MS Office documents. Then moving forward, MS Office could use a clear, modern format like ODF, enhanced with Microsoft’s participation in the ODF TC, to ensure that it includes all of the capabilities that they require for moving forward in the office productivity market. Do we really want to drag deprecated VML and incorrect leap calculations into the 21st Century?