OpenDocument could 'turn the world 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 executive said on Thursday 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, 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. 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," said Bray at the conference.

Bray claimed that although Microsoft Office documents have become the de facto standard, it has not caused a revolution as it is not a format that is 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 US state governments, according to IBM. Microsoft has said it will not support the OpenDocument format, as it believed the format to be inferior and said is not compatible with older versions of Office, according to InformationWeek.

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

"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 standardise 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 other's 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.