ODF, OOXML...and now UOF?

UOF, or Uniform Office Format, is a document format created by the Chinese government that has catapulted to prominence, at least in China, due to its use by government and a Chinese population making greater use of computing technology. Scott McNealy, Sun's chairman, has called for the merging of UOF with ODF, and Microsoft recently announced that it would was building a converter between UOF and OOXML.

UOF, or Uniform Office Format, is a document format created by the Chinese government that has catapulted to prominence, at least in China, due to its use by government and a Chinese population making greater use of computing technology. Scott McNealy, Sun's chairman, has called for the merging of UOF with ODF, and Microsoft recently announced that it would was building a converter between UOF and OOXML.

Three formats? The heads of those who believe in a document format singularity must be exploding right about now.

But why should they? It occurred to me as I was reading details of the Chinese document format that all this silliness over having exactly ONE document format is just that...silly. Life does not have to be like an episode of Highlander.

When has there EVER been only ONE document format? So long as every format is well documented, who gives a damn what format an office suite uses by default? If converters to and from a given format exist, there is no problem.

Multiple audio formats exist. You have MP3, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, and AAC. In video, you have H.264, VC-1, WMV, MPEG-2, Quicktime, etc. None of those formats permanently bind content to that format, and conversion between any of them is relatively straight forward, given the right tools.

Multiple document formats might even help to drive forward the technology state of the art. Each has the opportunity to create advantages distinct to a particular format, and that can create a cycle of cross-pollination that enables all standards to be updated over time.

In every technology sector there is usually a dominant standard. In no market, however, have we ever reached a point where there is only one standard for a given technology.

That is the way it should be. Diversity is good.