Microsoft's efforts to overturn a vote earlier this year denying its Open XML "fast track" standards certification seem to be getting a boost from the GNOME Foundation.
GNOME Foundation founder Miguel deIcaza is a Novell employee, and his actions have been closely scrutinized since Microsoft signed its controversial "patent licensing" deal with the company a year ago.
OpenXML, also called OOXML, was denied "fast track" International Standards Organization (ISO) approval in September, but a final vote on making it a standard will take place in February, and Microsoft is anxious to get the earlier decision reversed.
To that end Microsoft is working with the ECMA TC 45 group to answer detailed questions which accompanied the negative ballots in September, in hopes of changing hearts and minds by February. GNOME's participation in that group is upsetting Open Document Format (ODF) advocates.
ODF is the format used by Open Office.
Opponents of making the Microsoft Word format an ISO document standard, like OpenDocument Fellowship member Russell Ossendryver, compare GNOME's actions to Democrats offering counters to President Bush's 2005 plan on privatizing Social Security -- any counter-proposal makes it more likely something bad will happen.
Dave Neary, a member of the GNOME Foundation and community manager for OpenWengo, says it's all safe as milk. Quoting Jody Goldberg, who calls supporting ODF "significantly more difficult" than supporting OOXML, he suggests ODF will never be the "one true format" without destroying its utility.
In arguing for Open XML on his blog yesterday, Jason Matusow of Microsoft insists no one's hands are clean, that any decision gives proprietary advantage to someone, and the place to fight all this out is the marketplace, not a standards-setting process.
The issue is vital for this reason. Microsoft Office has a dominant market share. Microsoft Office is proprietary. Microsoft's XML formatting was changed just before Office 2007's final release, destroying interoperabiity with ODF until fixes could be found.
Once a proprietary standard is approved by the ISO, and made a standard, its eventual replacement by a truly open standard like ODF becomes impossible. At best the two stand side-by-side, and Microsoft's market dominance is baked into the market.
That's why, despite the fact OOXML or OpenXML may be a better format today, groups like NOOOXML are fighting so hard against ISO approval. (The cartoon is from the NOOOXML site.)
Once a proprietary format becomes a standard, the era of truly open standards is over, and the way becomes clear to making anything proprietary.