≡ Menu

e to the power of hype

I had a good chuckle over the new content at Microsoft’s Open XML Community web site. Please take a look. What it lacks in accuracy it makes up for in the use of shiny graphics and stock photos of shiny people, the kind of eye candy that years of shiny PowerPoint presentations have numbed us into believing is an adequate substitute for thought.

What especially caught my eye was this claim:

Global support for Open XML is growing exponentially. Thousands of organizations have joined OpenXMLCommunity.org, hundreds of ISVs are developing solutions on Open XML, and more and more governments are opting for Choice in standards policies. Additionally, more than 10 million compatibility packs that allow users of earlier versions of Microsoft Office to work with Open XML have been downloaded around the world. The momentum is growing, the adoption is real.

Exponential growth is quite a claim. But what is the evidence? Microsoft provides this chart further down on the page, showing the growth in their “community”:

Years ago, when I was a student, we had a technical term for curves like this. We called them “lines” and referred to this type of growth as “linear.” We did not call it “exponential growth

Let’s take a look at the growth in document usage, instead of community membership. Here’s an update of a chart I showed a couple of months ago:

In this chart you see two series, one for ODF (blue) and one for OOXML (red). The horizontal axis shows the number of days since each standard was published, namely May 2005 for ODF and December 2006 for OOXML. The vertical axis shows the number of documents in that format on the web, according to Google, by doing “filetype” searches. For example, a query of “filetype:ods” gives you all of the ODS (ODF spreadsheet) documents on the web.

(Ben Langhinrichs also has some updated numbers and analysis on this topic.)

Is this what you would call exponential growth? Eight months after Office 2007 shipped, and despite the claim of “10 million compatibility packs” downloaded, the OOXML line is only slowing and linearly rising (R-squared=0.943). ODF remains 100-times more prevalent on the web today and is growing 20-times faster than OOXML.

So “Global support for Open XML is growing exponentially”? Uh. I don’t think so. Maybe something is growing exponentially, like the hype. But the users, the documents and the “community” — these appear to be only slowly and linearly growing.

But lest you leave without some dramatic growth to think about, let me share some with you. If you recall, back in April I brought your attention to the fact that two scientific journals, Science and Nature, were both rejecting submissions from authors in OOXML format. I’ve been looking around and found an embarrassingly large number of additional journals which explicitly disallow OOXML.

The Optical Society of America’s journal, Optics Letters, will not accept Word 2007 format. The American Phytopathological Society’s Plant Disease warns in bright red print [pdf], “This journal does not accept Microsoft Word 2007 documents at this time.” The American Institute of Physics, tells their authors “Word 2007 and the new Word docx format should not be used. Docx files will currently cause problems for reviewers and complicate many existing preproduction and production routines.” Vandose Zone Journal warns submitters that they cannot use the new equation editor in Word 2007 and should use MathML instead. “Word 2007 .docx format is not accepted” according to The Journal of Nutrition.

But wait, there’s more!

Wiley InterScience tells authors for almost 200 of its journals that “This journal does not accept Microsoft WORD 2007 documents at this time,” ruling out OOXML for authors of these journals:

  1. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
  2. International Journal of Quantum Chemistry
  3. Software Process: Improvement and Practice
  4. Pediatric Blood & Cancer
  5. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine
  6. Medicinal Research Reviews
  7. American Journal of Physical Anthropology
  8. Journal of Mass Spectrometry
  9. Journal of Polymer Science Part B: Polymer Physics
  10. Developmental Dynamics
  11. Journal of Applied Polymer Science
  12. Magnetic Resonance in Medicine
  13. Synapse
  14. Genes, Chromosomes and Cancer
  15. Journal of Medical Virology
  16. Flavour and Fragrance Journal
  17. Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining
  18. Clinical Anatomy
  19. Hepatology
  20. Advances in Polymer Technology
  21. Journal of Orthopaedic Research
  22. Molecular Carcinogenesis
  23. Environmental Progress
  24. Infant Mental Health Journal
  25. Annals of Neurology
  26. International Journal of Imaging Systems and Technology
  27. Developmental Neurobiology
  28. AIChE Journal
  29. Journal of Traumatic Stress
  30. genesis
  31. Meteorological Applications
  32. Process Safety Progress
  33. Atmospheric Science Letters
  34. Systems Research and Behavioral Science
  35. Journal of Community Psychology
  36. Diagnostic Cytopathology
  37. Birth Defects Research Part B
  38. Journal of Software Maintenance and Evolution
  39. International Journal of Climatology
  40. The Chemical Record
  41. Wireless Communications and Mobile Computing
  42. International Journal of Intelligent Systems
  43. Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds
  44. Statistics in Medicine
  45. Concurrency and Computation: Practice and Experience
  46. Developmental Psychobiology
  47. Applied Stochastic Models in Business and Industry
  48. The Prostate
  49. Journal of Computational Chemistry
  50. X-Ray Spectrometry
  51. Peditric Blood & Cancer
  52. Random Structures and Algorithms
  53. Microwave and Optical Technology Letters
  54. Lasers in Surgery and Medicine
  55. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
  56. Weather
  57. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Reviews
  58. International Journal of Finance & Economics
  59. Psycho-Oncology
  60. Chirality
  61. Applied Cognitive Psychology
  62. American Journal of Medical Genetics Part B:
  63. Medicinal Research Reviews
  64. Biopharmaceutics & Drug Disposition
  65. Zoo Biology
  66. Catheterization and Cardiovascular Interventions
  67. Plus 103 more journals!

Oxford Journals, part of Oxford University Press, tells submitters, “This journal does not accept Microsoft Word 2007 documents at this time.” Journals directly effected by this policy include:

  1. Bioinformatics
  2. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
  3. American Journal of Epidemiology
  4. PEDS
  5. Briefings in Functional Genomics & Proteomics
  6. The Computer Journal
  7. Health Policy and Planning
  8. Journal of Environmental Law
  9. Review of English Studies
  10. Behavioral Ecology
  11. ELT Journal
  12. Molecular Biology and Evolution
  13. CESifo Economic Studies
  14. Journal of Pediatric Psychology
  15. Cerebral Cortex
  16. Literary and Linguistic Computing
  17. Molecular Human Reproduction
  18. Enterprise & Society
  19. Age and Ageing
  20. European Journal of Public Health
  21. Publius
  22. Integrative and Comparative Biology
  23. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation
  24. Rheumatology
  25. Glycobiology
  26. And 35 more journals!

Blackwell Publishing, publisher of over 800 journals, rejects OOXML submissions telling authors, “Will authors please note that Word 2007 is not yet compatible with journal production systems.” This adds to our list of journals where OOXML cannot be used:

  1. Psychophysiology
  2. Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica
  3. Transfusion Alternatives in Transfusion Medicine
  4. Acta Neuropsychiatrica
  5. Nursing Forum: An Independent Voice for Nursing
  6. Experimental Techniques: A Publication for the Practicing Engineer
  7. Cytopathology
  8. Asian Journal of Social Psychology
  9. Journal of Anatomy
  10. Annals of Applied Biology
  11. Lethaia: An International Journal of Palaeontology
  12. Journal of the American Water Resources Association
  13. Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging
  14. Ibis: The International Journal of Avian Science
  15. Basin Research
  16. Digestive Endoscopy
  17. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies
  18. European Journal of Neurology
  19. Surgical Practice: Formerly Annals of the College of Surgeons
  20. FEMS Yeast Research
  21. FEMS Microbiology Reviews
  22. FEMS Microbiology Ecology
  23. FEMS Microbiology Letters
  24. Regulation & Governance
  25. FEMS Immunology & Medical Microbiology
  26. Clinical and Experimental Optometry
  27. Journal of Food Process Engineering
  28. The Journal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology
  29. Medical Education
  30. European Journal of Clinical Investigation
  31. Diseases of the Esophagus
  32. Sleep and Biological Rhythms
  33. International Migration Review
  34. Computational Intelligence
  35. Asia Pacific Viewpoint
  36. Seminars in Dialysis
  37. Peace & Change: A Journal of Peace Research
  38. Journal of Applied Social Psychology
  39. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology
  40. Dermatologic Therapy
  41. WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society
  42. Journal of Travel Medicine
  43. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography
  44. Australasian Radiology
  45. Genes to Cells
  46. The Clinical Respiratory Journal
  47. Echocardiography
  48. The American Journal of Gastroenterology
  49. Histopathology
  50. Personal Relationships
  51. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology
  52. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
  53. Experimental Dermatology
  54. Journal of Social Philosophy
  55. The Journal of Popular Culture
  56. Pathology International
  57. Pain Practice
  58. The Journal of American Culture
  59. Clinical & Experimental Immunology
  60. Religious Studies Review
  61. Entomological Science
  62. Plus 107 more journals!

I won’t claim it is exponential, but I will suggest that the most impressive growth occurring around OOXML is the number of journals that will not accept it.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Anonymous 2007/08/12, 6:36 pm

    The Community site is irrelevant and so are their claim. However, I found the ‘Voices for Innovation’ quite funny.

    The problem with Astroturfing is that you need to compensate each member of your community. You cannot beat a real community.

  • Anonymous 2007/08/12, 9:25 pm

    No, Richard Chapman said…

    “You cannot beat a real community.”

    A blogger recently completed a secret survey. He posted an opinion piece with a title something like this “10 things I’m Tired of Hearing Mac Fanboys Say”. About two weeks later he followed with another piece similarly titled except with “Microsoft Fanboys” in the title. Finally he did the same with “Linux Fanboys”.

    The response from the Mac community numbered about 4. The response from the Microsoft community numbered about 10. The Linux response was about 75. In spite of our small numbers we clobbered the competition. I’m still trying to digest exactly why that is. I have some ideas but they need more time to peculate.

  • Vexorian 2007/08/12, 9:46 pm

    It is way too clear how apple is MS’ biggest ally in this push, why are they doing this?

    I am also disappointed of HP, guess will have to find myself another printer developer.

  • Jesper Lund Stocholm 2007/08/13, 6:16 am

    How many of the enormous list of journals accept ODF as fileformat?

  • BobFolkerts 2007/08/13, 9:00 am

    A community sites should not end with © 2007 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Communities may be hosted or they may have an ‘org’ with clearly defined rules for control of shared content. I suppose that the rules are at http://www.openxmlcommunity.org/termsofuse.aspx are reasonably clear (Microsoft makes no claim of ‘ownership’ but they do claim full rights to redistribute, exactly what is ‘owned’ is never stated. I assume that this wording is supposed to protect Microsoft from law suites over published content while simultaneously allow it to use the content for any use it sees fit.) If one commercial interest controls the copyright, I simply don’t understand how this can be considered a community web site.

  • Anonymous 2007/08/13, 3:53 pm

    @vexorian: here’s my anonymous take on why Apple is MS’s ally in this.

    Apple does not see itself as competing with MS, even though both develop proprietary software. Apple is a hardware company that uses software as a selling point. Apple does not desire 90% of the office software market; being able to run the monopoly’s office software is a selling point. And besides, Apple primarily sells all-in-one gadgets to individuals. Apple tries (only sometimes successfully) to make up for it’s underspec’ed and overpriced hardware with sleek marketing and good design (both hardware and software design). That does not make it a big business seller. MS, on the other hand, makes up for its poor software design with various tricks I’m sure you’re familiar with.

    That does not make them competitors. Even though it seems like they are, sort of, every Mac sold is one less copy of Windows. Except now that Macs are intel based, that’s not completely true either.

    So, what Apple wants from MS is interoperability without going to the (unreliable and expensive) lengths of reverse engineering that Linux developers must (e.g. Samba, Kerberos).

    MS, on the other hand, may see Apple as a very small (and its largest) competitor. But what MS wants from Apple is somebody to point to and say “See, we’re not a monopoly!”

  • Anonymous 2007/08/13, 5:00 pm

    “Apple is a hardware company that uses software as a selling point”

    Same for SUN ;-)

    Apple has a full-featured product. More closed and proprietary than Microsoft’s peoples PC.

    Microsoft competes with Microsoft corporate pirates. The competition with Linux is just a media story but Microsoft waged an ideological war.

    For governments and large users of Word ODF is an utmost useful asset. They can announce their switch to OO.org and reduce Word procurement fees. OO.org is a strategic tool and needs more investment. The goal is not to actually take Microsofts market share but the threat of force. Large users of Microsoft Word should invest into OO.org development as a rational procurement strategy. How to raise political party funds? Announce your switch to OO.org.

    Sun can finance OO.org with petty cash. You get good press, community support and raise your trademark value. Maybe interesting business opportunities emerge as well.

    We need governments which say: Let’s invest some 150 Mio$ on OO.org development to make Microsoft nervous.

  • Anonymous 2007/08/13, 5:45 pm

    “Same for SUN ;-)”

    Not really ;-)

    SUN has a completely different business strategy than Apple’s. SUN sells to business and are big in servers and support (similar to IBM). SUN believes that good and widely used standards will allow them to compete on a level playing field. Free and Open Source are merely tools to that end.

    And that’s pretty darn good for a corporation whose purpose is to make money.

    As for raising political party funds…heh. I think you may be overestimating by several orders of magnitude the number of people who follow these issues.

  • Zaine Ridling 2007/08/15, 2:58 am

    Wow! Great research, Rob. Within academia, no one wants to archive either their data or their documents on MS-OOXML. They’re not convinced, period.

  • Wesley Parish 2007/08/15, 8:21 am

    FWIW, I got a 60-day trial copy of MS Office and a copy of Novell SLED 10 SP1 on much the same day.

    Oh frabjious day!

    Microsoft has been running off its mouth about the format converters; I’ve got a nice little test environment.

    Oh, and I’ve also got a copy of ACME 376!

    Time to see if the hype flies, or the fly hypes. ;)

  • Gopal 2007/08/15, 10:34 am

    Refer to the recent INCITS vote against OOXML. There seems to be no mention of this on the MSDN blogs. Very Strange or is something brewing behind the scenes.
    Meanwhile some movement on ODF with Googlepack offering StarOffice free and Sun(GullFOSS) giving details of the OOXML import filter (there is no export filter) for OpenOffice.

  • Gopal 2007/08/16, 12:30 am

    In continuation to my prev post, there was a similar brief period of silence on the MSDN blogs after the results of the ISO ballot for fast-track approval. The end result was OOXML got approval for the fast track process overriding all objections.
    Will we see an action replay now.

  • Anonymous 2007/08/16, 8:58 am

    “How to raise political party funds? Announce your switch to OO.org.”

    It is a joke. It is well known microsoft donates money to parties and uses all means to combat open source policies. It is also known that announcing OO.org switches is mostly a procurement strategy.

    Back in 2002 or so German Bundestag announced a switch to Linux (of the Bundestag Pcs) which made great news and received strong grassroot support.

    Microsoft lobbying was almost succesful but a public affairs disaster. Parties criticised them. The defense minister had to quit and Microsoft’s public affairs company Hunzinger was ridiculed in mainstream press after internal memos got published.

    Hunzinger lobbying became mainstream news.

    “How to get a dinner appointment with Steve Ballmer? Announce your switch to Linux.”

  • The Wraith 2007/08/16, 10:29 am

    Reading Bens figures I see a 200% rise for OOXML files in a period when ODF files were only 8% raising in about 3 months. Continuing that schedule OOXML files will be more prevelant on Google in 15 months or so.
    Since the effect is partly due to MS producing about a fifth of the growth it is probably oging o be a bit slower and in that case we could asume that OOXML will catch up with ODF in 1,5 to 2 years.

  • Rob 2007/08/16, 4:23 pm

    Hi Wraith, remember that a begger who finds a penny on the street might double his net worth. But you can’t eat a growth rate.

    Let’s see where this time next year. Any predictions for how many ODF and OOXML documents we’ll see?

  • Anonymous 2007/08/19, 12:37 am

    Where are these documents? From what I could see, ODF is very popular in France, and in the smaller countries of northern and central Europe. DOCX is seeing some (very small) use in the USA and Russia, and virtually none anywhere else.


    This is what I find after a quick search (for ODT only):

    Total ODT: 94200 (18th of August)

    Total that can be attributed to specific countries: 33751
    Total in top 20 countries: 32181
    Total in other countries examined: 701

    Total which could not be attributed to specific countries: 60449

    Of the ODT files with known geographic locations, 70% are in Europe (including eastern Europe), 20% are in North America, and 10% are elsewhere (South America, Mexico, Asia, Africa).

    For this test, a total of 46 countries were selected for detailed examination. These covered most of the higher income OECD countries, plus the larger lower income countries. The relative rankings should only be taken as a rough guide, as we don’t know the actual location of a good many files.

    Top 20 countries
    Country # of ODT
    France 15400
    USA 6360
    Italy 1050
    Denmark 928
    Russia 871
    Brazil 797
    Germany 777
    UK 746
    Hungary 607
    Mexico 591
    Poland 565
    Netherlands 472
    Australia 462
    Norway 460
    Switzerland 448
    Austria 431
    Japan 412
    Canada 312
    Finland 248
    Sweden 244

    ODF documents per million people in the same top 20 countries.

    Country, ODT/million population
    France 240.63
    Denmark 171.85
    Norway 97.87
    Hungary 60.7
    Switzerland 59.73
    Austria 51.93
    Finland 47.69
    Netherlands 28.61
    Sweden 26.81
    Australia 22
    USA 21.2
    Italy 17.8
    Poland 14.49
    UK 12.43
    Germany 9.48
    Canada 9.45
    Russia 6.09
    Mexico 5.47
    Brazil 4.28
    Japan 3.22

    This test was conducted by doing a file type search (filetype:odt) using the localised Google web sites, and asking for results only from that country. The USA doesn’t appear to have a localised web site, so the USA results were obtained from
    (which says it uses Google to get results).



    For docx files, there were a total of 1,060. Of these, 467 could be attributed to a particular country. 154 of the total were from the Microsoft.com domain. If we examine the same countries used in the top 20 list above we get:

    Country, # of docx
    USA 239
    Russia 109
    Germany 28
    UK 23
    Canada 9
    Netherlands 8
    France 7
    Italy 7
    Brazil 7
    Switzerland 6
    Japan 5
    Sweden 5
    Australia 4
    Poland 3
    Norway 3
    Mexico 2
    Denmark 2
    Hungary 0
    Finland 0
    Austria 0

    I won’t repeat the documents per million list for docx, as the numbers are too small to be meaningful. However, in that ranking Switzerland takes the lead as 6 docx files and a population of 7.5 million gives it a rate of 0.8 documents per million.

    Of those docx files for which we can find a country, most are in the USA or Russia, with Germany and the UK well behind with a couple of dozen each and no significant numbers to be found anywhere else.

    Of the files which can be found in the USA (239), a large percentage seem to be in Microsoft. It should not be surprising if the developers and sales team account for a large proportion of the users.

    The number of files in Russia seemed to require more investigation. Manual examination of a sample of the file locations seems to indicate that many of them are on personal web pages loaded with mp3 files and warez. No doubt the Russian hackers have all the latest of everything. I’m not sure I would want to download anything from those sites for detailed examination though.


    A similar study using ‘doc’ files is not possible, because Google only gives a very rough estimate of between 2 and 3 million documents per country. No doubt it cuts off the search after a certain point in order to not waste search resources.

  • Wesley Parish 2007/08/19, 5:09 am

    Update on my “test environment“.

    I log onto the required Microsoft Live site, and start entering details. Minor Detail: I don’t live in either the Continental US of A or any of its territories; Major detail: Microsoft is apparently not aware of anywhere else.

    I got my MS Office 2k7 Trial Edition off an Australian computer magazine. I wonder how many Aussies will be fuming at Microsoft now, as a direct result? Out with the footgun, Quick Draw McGraw, them (FAVOURED TERM OF ABUSE) feet are creepin’ up on youse!

    But then, that seems to be their entire attitude – Not Invented Here writ large.

  • PolR 2007/08/20, 9:59 am

    To the anonymous that tracked the source of documents by countries, thanks a lot for this informative research.

    I wonder what is the proportion of the ODT documents from France that come from governement agencies. Many ministries have converted to Open Office there. Are we seeing a major governement push that drags the rest of the country?

  • Anonymous 2007/08/24, 1:18 pm

    The comment about academic publishers is, I’m afraid, a bit off the mark yet. It took the American Physical Society (www.aps.org) ages before they started accepting electronic submissions in Word. TeX, of course, was (and is!) vastly preferred. Indeed the APS is an extreme case, but setting up the procedure to handle a new format is, from what I gather from my onlooker’s perspective, a major task, and they would never be the first to embrace it.

    In fact I do not quite understand how come the publishers have not been much more vocal in favour of a _real_ document standard…

Cancel reply

Leave a Comment