OpenDocument could 'turn everything inside out'

The data format standard has the potential to transform the world just as the Web did, according to a senior Sun executive.

A Sun Microsystems executive says the OpenDocument format has the potential to change the world.

Tim Bray, the director of Web technologies at Sun, said at the conference in Slovenia late last week that the file format developed by standards body OASIS has the potential to transform the world as much as the World Wide Web did.

"Now we have the potential to explode the world again, to turn everything inside out again, if we get the widespread use across the office desktops of the world, of a common, open, unencumbered, reusable data format, namely OpenDocument," Bray said at the conference. "So we could see an explosion over the next decade that is like the Web happening again. And that would be fun--I'd love to see that happening."

Bray claimed that although Microsoft Office documents have become the de facto standard, the software giant's applications suite has not caused a revolution because it is not a format designed to be open or reusable.

The OpenDocument format has already been embraced by the commonwealth of Massachusetts and is being considered by some European governments, including Denmark and Norway; by Japan; and by other U.S. state governments. Microsoft has said it will not support the OpenDocument format.

The success of the Web, Bray said, can be attributed to the fact that everyone agreed to use HTML as the standard format data for presenting information.

"For many years before the Web there were many different ways of publishing information. There were many different ways of doing hypertext. There were many different ways of doing online information retrieval and search, and navigation," said Bray.

"But then in the early '90s everyone agreed on one data format--HTML. HTML is not the world's greatest data format, but the power that came when everybody agreed to standardize on one data format--it changed the world. The whole world of online information exploded. It turned the world inside out," he said.

Bray's views on the impact of a standard data format on the success of the World Wide Web could be seen as a simplification. One of the main reasons why the Web succeeded where others had failed is due to the functionality it provided. In addition, other standards were also important for the success of the Web, in particular URLs and HTTP.