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ISO Death Watch in the Press

Posted in Action, America, Europe, Interoperability, ISO, Microsoft, Open XML, Standard at 11:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This is consensus?

Grave cross

Computer World: The Beginning of the End for the ISO?

I believe that this marks the beginning of the end of ISO’s reign as the primary standards-setting organisation, at least as far as computing is concerned (for other industries, details of the standards-setting process, or even of the standards that result, may not be quite so crucial as they for the current phase of IT.) This is a view that I and others have articulated before, but one that was not really accompanied by any signs that things would actually change.

The Consegi Declaration, by contrast, is a very real statement of intent by some of the most important players in the international computing community. Collectively, they have sufficient power to make a difference to how standards are set globally. Specifically, they could at a stroke help establish some alternative forum as a rival to the ISO by throwing their weight behind it.

Inquirer: ISO OOXML support criticised

As the INQUIRER previously noted, there are now two incompatible, international document standards on which the world can conduct its discourse, manage its business, and record its archives: ODF, which was designed by the people, for the people; and OOXML, which was created by Microsoft, the convicted monopolist.

Heise: Renewed protest against the ISO certification of Microsoft’s OOXML

In a statement of protest adopted by the Congresso Internacional Sociedade e Governo Eletronico (CONSEGI), the countries charge that the international committees bent their own rules. The emerging nations even argue that these proceedings call into question the future use of ISO standards in their administrations.

Groklaw: CONSEGI 2008 Declaration — Open Letter to ISO Reveals More OOXML Issues

There is an unexpected reaction from major government IT agencies in six countries condemning the ISO/IEC refusal to act on the four appeals against OOXML, which they say “reflects poorly” on ISO/IEC. They have signed and sent an open letter to ISO, which I’ll show you in full. The countries represented are South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Cuba.

Tectonic: Southern nations frown on ISO

State IT organisation representatives from Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay have signed a declaration expressing their dissatisfaction with the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

The countries signed the declaration at the CONSEGI conference in Brazil over the weekend in response to news that the ISO/IEC had rejected the appeals from South Africa, Brazil and Venezuela and India to the ISO process to adopt Microsoft’s OOXML format as an international standard.

Reuters: Microsoft decision sparks dissent amid ISO members

“The bending of the rules to facilitate the fast-track processing… remains a significant concern to us,” they said, referring to a process many parties had complained was too fast and not transparent enough for such a complex format.

Consortium Info: The CONSEGI 2008 Declaration: Six Nations “Just Say No” to ISO/IEC

The latest blowback from the OOXML adoption process emerged last Friday in Brasilia, Brazil. This newest challenge to the continued relevance of ISO and IEC was thrown when major IT agencies of six nations – Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Paraguay, South Africa and Venezuela – signed a declaration that deploring the refusal of ISO and IEC to further review the appeals submitted by the National Bodies of four nations. Those nations were Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela, and the statement is titled the CONSEGI 2008 Declaration, after the conference at which it was delivered.

<No>OOXML: Four governments go ballistic over Open XML

South America and South Africa have been aligned for quite some time on many occasions of international legislation and often vigorously oppose government agendas of the “North”. What makes me as a European feel ashamed is that they take the freedom to speak in plain words while European and Northern American standard bodies fail to express the obvious. A reform of ISO would only be possible when all nations work jointly on that matter. Here it looks like the four nations actually consider to leave ISO and set up their own vendor-neutral standard organisation. I guess many standards consortia will try to gather the fortune and get these nations on board.

Standards and Freedom: Teenage Riot?

But who are we to interfere with the Masters of Scholastics of Geneva?

The most interesting part of that letter is not the protest itself: Those countries are outraged. Actually, the most interesting part of that letter is that it clearly shows that they have run out of options -and will- to appeal the ISO decisions. Which does not mean OOXML is a folded case; in contrary, the letter implicitly shows these countries will evaluate other kind of options. After all, the ISO has failed in its mission with OOXML. It has showed to the world that it could only accommodate the will of the mightiest and not reach consensus. Thus conclusions will be reached, and decisions made, and actions will be taken. And I don’t think it will comply with the ISO directions.

There were a couple more yesterday. In the mean time, since Bryden and ISO act like stubborn "teenagers" (to borrow from Patrick Durusau’s vocabulary [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]) who cannot admit a mistake, it’s time to move on and ask authorities to ignore ISO’s recommendations. ISO has proven to be too corruptible to be taken seriously.

Glyn Moody calls for Europeans to
provide input regarding Interoperability Framework v2. It must not consider OOXML as an option. In fact, several European nations, have rejected it already.

I’ve noted before that writing to MPs/MEPs seems to be remarkably effective in terms of generating a response. The naïve among us might even assume that democracy is almost functional in these cases. I’m not sure whether that applies to something as large and inscrutable as the European Commission, but it’s certainly worth a try, especially in the context of open source and open standards.


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  1. Needs Sunlight said,

    September 2, 2008 at 1:50 pm


    Let’s not cede ISO to M$, shall we? MSFTers have a lot to gain by ruining the credibility of the world’s key standards organization: it weakens the credibility of standards, one of MSFT’s weakest points. (Besides security and design.)

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    September 2, 2008 at 1:54 pm


    Yes, I’ve made that point elsewhere. How do you suggest ISO’s reputation is restored without its apology, a reform, and another acknowledgment of the problem (this time from Bryden)?

    (Does Microsoft Want to Kill ISO More Than Its Wants to Win an ISO?)

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