Summary: New reminder of how Microsoft corrupted international standards and a call for action in the United Kingdom
NOVELL’S SUPPORT of OOXML was mentioned in the previous post, which also helped put Mono in context. Mono will soon comprise Microsoft code licensed under Microsoft licences. It’s almost as though Novell is just a proxy for putting Microsoft stuff inside GNU/Linux. We’ll leave this discussion for another day though. More interesting news happens to have come through Rob Weir a few hours ago. It is a new post titled “Are Standards Organizations Relevant?”
Recently I was in a brief conversation about the use of the IEEE. They are an institution that, like many (all?) other standards organizations, seems to exist largely or entirely to standardize the reason for their existence. While it is generally agreed that we would greatly prefer a world with standards organizations to one without, it’s evident that standards organizations need to do more than they currently are to remain relevant. Given the complaints about standards organizations, the solution to this may actually be more standardization.
Another important point is careful control over what exactly becomes a standard. Standards must be fully defined with nothing critical being dependent on any particular implementation. If I pick up the document defining the standard for a document format, that document should contain all the information I require to create an application which handles that format in a manner identical to the reference implementation. For the Open Document Format (ODF) standard, this is possible. For the Microsoft Office OpenXML (MSOOXML) document format, this is impossible. The MSOOXML definition refers to the behaviour of previous versions of Microsoft Office applications without providing any documentation on how to properly produce that behaviour or even what the correct behaviour should be. Even worse, the MSOOXML definition defines an “arbitrary binary data” field — neither open nor XML, and by definition impossible to define. It is therefore possible for an application to create a MSOOXML document which would appear to be completely adherent to the document specifications but which could not be properly read by any other application.
We have covered to death the corruption that occurred amidst ISO’s decision. This was an extraordinary display of Microsoft’s criminal nature, which it showed not just once but possibly hundreds of times in a short period of time (we documented many examples).
In better news, a proposal has just been made for the British government to make ODF the national standard.
Establish the Open Document Format as the standard for use in all Government departments rather than continually upgrading to the latest version of Microsoft Office at a cost of many millions of pounds. This is a process which is already taking place in other European countries and one which should be started in Britain at the earliest opportunity.
Supporting OOXML in any way is acknowledging that abuse of the system is acceptable and that open standards no longer mean anything. The British Standards Institution has already been sued for what it did regarding OOXML. █