Bonum Certa Men Certa

It's Official: ISO Committee Captured by Vendor Microsoft Corporation

Stuffed committee effectively renders ISO obsolete

ISO does nothing to save itself from sinking. Beginning with slightly older news about the protests in Norway and the subsequent exodus [1, 2, 3, 4], there is this new article from Heise, which explains how it relates to ISO's incompetence.

Thirteen of the twenty three members of the Standard Norge expert committee, which dealt with the standardisation of Microsoft's OOXML document format, have announced their resignations. They are protesting against the way Norway's decision in favour of ISO standardisation was made. In an open letter, they state that Standard Norge has clearly placed commercial interests ahead of what is best for society and what is technically and professionally desirable. In their opinion, the way it dealt with the process has resulted in Standard Norge forfeiting all credibility within the IT sector.


Now comes the uglier stuff. A reader has just infromed us that:

We now have a partial response to the question above, straight from the horse's mouth: According to Alex Brown: "By my (rough, unconfirmed) count, there were eight MS employees in 15 NB delegations (+ 4 people in the Ecma group) out of the 35 or so attendees." (http://www.robweir.com/blog/2008/10/wheres-rob.html)

12 Microsoft + Ecma people out of 35 people ! Isn't this a record ? But of course Microsoft is NOT hijacking SC 34, as "Delegates are charged with representing national positions" (from the same horse's mouth).


Here is the post from Rob Weir, who in protest decided not to even attend or participate in Korea's behind-closed-doors fiasco.

To put it in perspective, the US SC34 shadow committee currently has around 20 members. Before Microsoft stuffed it we had around 7. Regardless, the US SC34 mirror committee typically sends a delegation of 2 or 3 people to international meetings. IBM attendance at these meetings has varied from 0 to 2. It really depends on where the meeting is being held. If it is being hosted by an NB where an IBM employee is a member, then he will typically attend. If something is on the agenda that I find interesting, then I'll typically attend regardless of location.


Further reading reveals an ugly picture.

Earlier on we wrote about Microsoft hijacking Brazil's voice (Microsoft hijacks many voices [1, 2]) and here is another nugget of information.

The company from Redmond is heavily investing in the ISO SC34 committee. Thanks to a brazilian blogger who manage to shed some light on what was going on in there, we hear now that Microsoft Korea was paying for dinner.


This seems like the old 'gentle bribing' of people using uninvited love and/or money. We covered such examples before [1, 2, 3, 4]. Microsoft does this type of thing quite routinely, especially when it wants to gag critics or needs to buy their consent.

At the end of the day, why capture the SC34 committee? It's about hijacking ODF [1, 2], as expected.

In relation to those implicit threats that I received from Alex Brown (he has just moved his Web site from PHP to Microsoft ASP .NET by the way), ComputerWorld had something to say.

The point is, the *entire process* should be out in the open: that's how we do things in the 21st century, remember - the Internet, open source, Web 2.0, that kind of stuff? You know, a collaborative endeavour that draws as widely as possible on people who have relevant skills, whoever they may be? If the ISO wants to cling to secret squirrel meetings with Terribly Important Experts in closed rooms, that's its prerogative; but if it does, it can't presume to be a modern global standards body with any credibility, and it should make way for others to do the job.

A transparent process should be a badge of honour for the participants, since no one can then impugn their actions, and a basic act of respect towards the users of that standard, who are not made to feel like peasants receiving grace as the holy ISO tablets are handed down from Mount Geneva.

Given the decidedly turbid process that has swirled around the standardisation of OOXML, the need for some clarity is all the greater. The idea of the ISO suing someone for doing what ought to be one of its primary responsibilities, because it might result in a loss of “revenue” - as if the whole point of the ISO and national standards bodies were to make money - is sad in the extreme.


To fight corruption, it is not always possible to remain gentle and abstain from becoming more blunt sometimes. It's interesting to see the ODF Alliance Awards being referred to as heroism. A lot of people took heaps of personal attacks and smear campaigns [1, 2, 3, 4] for 'daring' to defend ODF and the integrity of the standards process. Even Andy Updegrove, the polite standards expert who wrote about this award, has already been assigned the label "Microsoft hater" (labels like these are nasty [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]) by the familiar group of snobs that is Microsoft and its money-sharing partners.

In summary, just when you think that ISO could not dive any lower, it keeps surprising. It's already a wreck due to Microsoft OOXML; now it wants to hijack and ruin ODF too, bending it Microsoft's way. It has already become evident who pulls ISO's strings.

OOXML protests in India
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