Bonum Certa Men Certa

Russell Ossendryver et al Take on Microsoft's False Promise of an 'Open' XML

Permission granted to repost this article from Russell Ossendryver, Charles-H Schulz of http://standardsandfreedom.net/ and Lars Nooden

International Organization for StandardizationThere are some important questions regarding OOXML’s upcoming ISO bid that Microsoft cannot answer or just simply won’t. From 25-29 February 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland, the ISO community will hold a Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) of the National Boards to discuss and vote finally on OOXML as an ISO standard. This article raises questions that Microsoft should answer to the satisfaction of the ISO community as part of the deliberation leading up to the BRM vote.

Today our society depends upon an enormous variety of software applications and easy access to information in order to function on a day-to-day basis. Everyone knows the pain of moving office documents around. There is a level of interoperability that is missing in today’s world, and OOXML’s adoption will just perpetuate and worsen this problem. And we all want interoperability. We also all want the ability to implement a standard. A standard that can be neither implemented nor used is useless.

Open Standards represent a democratic ideal, which means accountability. When one proposes one’s own property to become an ISO standard, we have a right to know all the answers before we vote you in.

Martin BryanAt Left: Highly respected Martin Bryan. As outgoing Conveyor of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1 he accused MS of stacking his group and said, “The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting ’standardization by corporation,’ something I have been fighting against for the 20 years I have served on ISO committees.”
Download this article as a PDF.

As it currently stands, for the ISO community to adopt OOXML as a standard would be the first step toward our cherished Open Internet and Open Standards becoming an asset on the balance sheet of just one company, Microsoft. Recall that Microsoft was held liable by the US government and the EU as a proven monopolist, which illegally leveraged that monopoly to stifle competition. Here are some of the unresolved questions regarding OOXML that Microsoft cannot or simply will not answer:



Information and communication technology (ICT) devices are able to exchange information only if they adhere to common communication protocols, technical interfaces, and information formats. We all desire the freedom and ability to develop, and implement these ICT’s. We all feel the need for ICT within the same field to be able to interchange data efficiently.

OOXML demonstrates a “standard” Microsoft hurried through ECMA and appears to be nothing more than a rubber-stamp of one vendor’s product specification. Microsoft’s OOXML is nothing more than a format Microsoft created by running a program that spits out the guts of MS Office in an XML form. Now MS appears to have realized this and expressed the “Intent” to deprecate features in the future. Microsoft appears to think it is best to get rid of references to legacy formats and other proprietary technology in experimental Version 1.

The trend is that Microsoft is opening up the boring legacy bits of OOXML, in stupefying detail, while neglecting to document the pieces actually needed for interoperability at a competitive level, like macros, scripting, encryption, etc. In essence, Microsoft is opening up and releasing the file format information that competitors like OpenOffice.org have already figured out on their own, while still at the same time restricting access to the information needed to compete. And the more MS realizes it has to open up the specification, deprecate and modernize OOXML, what do you get? You get XML. XML is XML. Strip out the non-XML garbage from OOXML and you will have the OpenDocument Format.

“Rather than hiding all the information we need and trying to cloak OOXML as ODF, we ask Microsoft to please get off the sinking ship...”We need for MICROSOFT TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS. Rather than hiding all the information we need and trying to cloak OOXML as ODF, we ask Microsoft to please get off the sinking ship, collaborate with the global community (which will welcome Microsoft) and help develop one universal file format for all. Long term, Microsoft can only benefit from cooperating with the market!

To our readers outside Microsoft’s walls, we ask that you please consider contacting the National Board in your country, and request complete resolution for all issues raised by the comments to Microsoft’s OOXML ISO application. Please be sure to insist that both the technical and non-technical issues be completely resolved as a pre-condition before OOXML is granted ISO status. You can find your delegates here: http://www.noooxml.org/delegations

An ISO standards vote is an open process. You are entitled to express your opinion. Remember a YES vote for OOXML is a vote against democracy and the freedom of choice.

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