OOXML approval system open to abuse

OOXML approval system open to abuse

Summary: The Office Open XML approval process is not up to standard. Pushing ahead will be a mistake

SHARE:
TOPICS: Apps
5

It is hard to consider the current high drama of Office Open XML and the International Organization for Standardization as anything other than a global soap opera. From Ghana, reports of "anti-Microsoft fundamentalism" being used as an argument against technical objections. From India, complaints that "we didn't oppose ODF, so why are you opposing OOXML?". And from Sweden, more than 20 new companies, overwhelmingly Microsoft partners, joining the committee voting on ISO certification within days of the final vote.

Whether or not OOXML is a good candidate for an open standard is beside the point: there is prima facie evidence of voting in bad faith, without proper consideration of all the aspects of the proposal. This is not something that can be fixed later; there are severe implications for the industry in adopting a standard that has not been fully analysed. Those who vote without understanding what they vote for, or because they have primarily political or commercial reasons, are guilty of subverting the process.

Now we have solid evidence of commercial pressure on companies to vote in a certain way. Microsoft says a leaked memo which is open to "potential confusion" and could be construed as offering two Swedish partners Microsoft resources in exchange for participation in the voting process was an isolated mistake by an employee. Yet nobody could read the memo and really be confused about its meaning.

It is no longer safe to assume the voting process is working. There remain many good and pressing technical, legal and practical issues connected with OOXML: part of the standardisation review process is the intention to identify such issues, fix them if possible and discard the standard if not. This too is not happening: "Vote it through now and fix it later" is the message.

Read this

Microsoft accused of rigging OOXML votes

Microsoft admits encouraging partners to join bodies deciding on ISO recognition of OOXML, but says that a Swedish memo offering rewards for doing so was an error...

Read more

For the sake of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) itself, the entire effort should be halted and reviewed. It is highly unlikely, given the elevated emotions and increasingly irascible claims made by all sides, that OOXML will be properly passed: if it is voted through, then necessary changes will not have been made and, if it is not, then a chance to make a key part of our IT infrastructure truly open may have been missed.

Either would be a mistake. Soap operas are fine as long as they stay fiction. Let's not create one we'll have to inhabit for decades to come.

Topic: Apps

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

5 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • OOXML Approval System has already been seriously abused

    "if it is not, then a chance to make a key part of our IT infrastructure truly open may have been missed."

    This is what so many cannot believe either on the evidence before us or on the basis of M$ track record.

    The 'stuffing of ballot boxes' by means of interfering with the makeup of the committees, coercion and vote rigging that is going on at the moment is nothing short of horrendous and, to us lesser mortals, thoroughly corrupt.

    Wiser people than me consider that if OOXML goes through, then the problem of future accessibility to records will be exacerbated and expensive, being locked into proprietry software subject to arbitrary change from time to time, quite the opposite of what is intended.

    MS are only fighting to maintain and reinforce their monoploy.

    Of course, the haste, the improper scrutiny, and disregard of serious technical comment are shameful. It is clear that OOXML is not, at this time, fit to be a standard; and nor likely ever will be.
    The Former Moley
  • Lack of Integrity

    Having read all the related news items over the last few days and having been bound by compliance with ISO and other Standards all my working life, I am truly shocked by what I am reading.

    I had always understood that the development of standards was carried in an environment of ethics and professionalism, by people competent for the task and with the interests of the wider community in mind.

    In my work as a Consultant I was bound to be impartial in my judgements and decisions, and could have been held to account for professional negligence if I was not so.

    The integrity of the participants in ISO certification has now been called into question and, indeed, the ISO itself and its methods.
    The Former Moley
  • A typo in the article, and an explanation of the Indian vote.

    (quote)
    From Ghana, reports of "anti-Microsoft fundamentalism" being used as an argument against technical objections.
    (unquote)

    Answer: I presume this is a typo - if you are arguing against technical objections to OOXML, then you are pro Microsoft. This should presumably read "pro-Microsoft fundamentalism". This is certainly what has been going on in other countries with blatent ballot stuffing by Microsoft partners who Microsoft has asked to join the voting committees with promises of preferable treatment or payment if they vote for OOXML

    (quote)
    From India, complaints that "we didn't oppose ODF, so why are you opposing OOXML?".
    (unquote)

    Answer: Because as the Indian technical committee explained in detail about why they unanimously rejected OOXML, there are serious technical and implementational issues with OOXML. In particular the OOXML spec. contains many references to trade secrets and proprietary patents that only Microsoft or Microsoft licensees will be able to implement. This breaks ISO's rules, and makes OOXML pointless except as a tool for fraudulently marketing it as an open and vendor neutral standard. What is the point of an ISO standard than can only be properly implemented by one company or it's licensees? That is completely contrary to the purpose of ISO standards.

    These issues were not present with ODF which is fully described, capable of being implemented in full by anybody including Microsoft without having to take out a license or agreement, and is truly vendor neutral.
    Mah
  • Fundamental misunderstandings...

    If you follow the links, you'll see that the 'anti-Microsoft fundamentalism' jibe was used against someone who was trying to raise technical questions about OOXML - the insinuation being that the motivation of the questioner was political, rather than practical.

    It's like being called anti-semitic when you question the actions of the Israeli state, or anti-capitalist when you talk about reforms of corporate law. It is, I think, a way of avoiding the real issues.

    As for the Indian quote, that was just a report, with the reader being left to make up their mind.

    The fact that such a quote could be made is, I feel, the most interesting part, and doesn't depend on the underlying assumptions of the quote being true.
    rupert.goodwins@...
  • Sorry I read this the wrong way

    Guess I was too impatient to read the links.
    Mah