Document standards - common sense prevailing?

· by Steve · Read in about 2 min · (343 Words)

I missed this when it was originally announced just over a week ago, but the OpenDocument format has now been ratified by the ISO committe and is now known as ISO/IEC 26300. This was widely expected, but it’s good news nonetheless. With backing from huge numbers of organisations wanting to break free of proprietary formats in their important business data, this was without doubt the right decision, and the only sane one.

Gartner are now predicting that Microsoft’s highly reactive and rather late application to get it’s own ‘Open XML’ formats standardised will be rejected by ISO (70% chance they say), since it obviously makes no sense at all to have 2 standards. My take - that’s especially likely when the second of those proposed standards is from the current monopoly holder over proprietary office data, who has a very dubious record in the observance of any official standard (see Kerberos vs Microsoft for example), and has the ghosts of many nebulous patents floating around it. Microsoft are trying once again to use the less rigorous ECMA as a something of a back-door route to greater levels of rubber-stamping, but this time I highly doubt it’s going to work.

The real test will be whether ODF is accepted by users of course. But given the huge impetus from governments especially not to have their data locked up in formats which they can’t control (and which feature a forced upgrade treadmill), and also that access to everyone, anywhere, anyhow is becoming more and more important in an increasingly digital lifestyle, the world desperately needs a true open standard, even if many of its inhabitants don’t realise they need it. Over time ODF can only succeed, but it will take a few years to slowly penetrate. No format controlled (in practice) by one company is ever going to pass muster for this purpose, no matter who that company is - and when it’s Microsoft, a company well known for its sharp practices and regular exploitation of market dominance, that advice is doubly, nay trebly true.