Venezuela and India appeal OOXML ratification

Joining South Africa and Brazil, the two countries have lodged formal complaints about Microsoft's Office Open XML being ratified as a standard by ISO/IEC
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Venezuela and India have appealed against the official ratification of Microsoft's Office Open XML document format, bringing the total number of protesting countries to four.

Joining Brazil and South Africa in appealing against OOXML being adopted as an International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) standard, the two countries sent their appeals before the Sunday night deadline.

"After the two-month appeal period, we now have four appeals — Brazil, India, South Africa and Venezuela," Jonathan Buck, the director of communications for IEC, told ZDNet.co.uk on Monday. "The appeals are now with our CEOs, IEC General Secretary Ronnie Amit, and ISO Secretary General Alan Bryden, who have a 30-day period to make sure appeals conform to directives."

If the appeals conform, they will then be formally submitted to two ISO/IEC committees for consideration, said Buck, referring to the IEC Technical Management Board and the ISO Technical Standards Board. However, there is little chance that the appeals will result in ISO/IEC abandoning ISO/IEC 29500, as OOXML has became known.

"The appeals process is designed to seek consensus," said Buck. "The standardisation process is about finding solutions, and the onus is on consensus. There are many avenues open for countries to agree or disagree. The process is open, and countries have the right to appeal."

However, not all participants agree that the process for ratifying ISO/IEC 29500 has been by consensus. The open-source legal site Groklaw revealed on Saturday that a member of the Danish technical committee has sent a letter of complaint to ISO/IEC. The letter, protesting the format's standardisation, was sent to ISO on Friday by Morten Kjærsgaard, a member of the Danish technical committee and the head of Open Source Leverandørforeningen (OSL; the Association for Open Source Vendors).

"[OSL] hereby lodges a formal complaint to ISO over the certification process after the meetings in Dansk Standard's committee S-445 (former S-142/U34) as well as the decision to change the Danish vote to a yes in connection with the processing of [ISO/IEC] 29500," wrote Kjærsgaard, as reported on Groklaw.

Kjærsgaard's protest included assertions that Microsoft Office formats stand in the way of interoperability, XML schemas are missing in the standard, the finished specification is not available, and the maintenance of ISO/IEC 29500 has not been decided.

"Based on this, the Association for Open Source vendors finds that both the process and decision [to ratify OOXML] is in violation of ISO's rules, and that the process has significantly damaged the reputations of both Dansk Standard and ISO," wrote Kjærsgaard.

Jesper Jerlang, the director of standardisation for Dansk Standard, the official Danish national standards body, told ZDNet.co.uk on Monday that Dansk Standard "did not agree" that processes had not been followed in the Danish OOXML voting process.

"We don't agree with Morten Kjærsgaard that our processes or rules have been violated, and we will not be appealing," said Jerlang. "When we looked at what the final Danish vote should be, we looked at technical input, and at procedures. If we felt there had been some violation of the rules we would not have voted 'yes'."

As happened with Norway, the fact that the protest came from the country's technical committee — rather than the national standards body itself — means it is not a formal appeal under the ISO/IEC guidelines.

Jonathan Buck disagreed that the ratification of ISO/IEC 29500 had damaged ISO/IEC's reputation, saying the standardisation system had "shown there are mechanisms to resolve and seek consensus".

"We maintain that the process is open and transparent," said Buck. "We do have specific directives under Joint Technical Committee 1 and at no time were processes not followed."

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