The Linux Foundation

 
Architects on OOXML

From The Linux Foundation

Desktop Architects Speak Out on OOXML

Quotes

John Cherry - Linux Foundation; Global Initiative Manager

The Linux Foundation supports the adoption of open standards as a catylist for innovation and to define common frameworks for new development. With ODF (Open Document Format) as an existing ISO document standard, we do not consider it beneficial to introduce an alternative document standard. Since ODF and OOXML are both designed as formats for editable documents, computer users would greatly benefit from multiple implementations of a single standard rather than suffer the confusion, conversions, and incompatibilities involved with multiple standards.

"The Case Against OOXML" is a reference listed below which describes why DIS29500 "Office Open XML" (OOXML) does not meet the criteria defined by ISO and others for an International Standard. Although the OOXML specification provides a formidable framework in which Microsoft can represent its own documents, this ability does not translate into anything approaching equal access for others to obtain these same benefits. OOXML is a direct port of a single vendor's binary document formats. It avoids the re-use of relevant existing international standards (i.e. several cryptographic algorithms, VML, etc.). It lists a large number of "Compatibility Settings" for legacy applications (i.e. footnoteLayoutLikeWW8, autoSpaceLikeWord95, useWord97LineBreakRules, etc.) which would be difficult for other developers to implement and hardly what you would find in an aspirational, consolidated best practices document. There are literally 100s of technical flaws that should be addressed before standardizing OOXML including continued use of binary code tied to platform specific features, propagating bugs in MS-Office into the standard, proprietary units, references to proprietary/confidential tags, unclear IP and patent rights, and more (see the reference from asianlinux.org below).

OOXML is simply not ready to become an ISO standard.


Klaus Knopper - creator of Knoppix

  • The proposed standard must be implementable by everyone. Insufficient or vendor-specific documentation cannot be implemented by anyone in full.
  • The proposed standard must be architecture- and operating-system independent.
  • The proposed standard must not be obfuscated.
  • All components and interfaces must be openly disclosed and documented in full, and not given as a "container" for proprietary content.
  • The proposed standard must not contain patented/proprietary components.
  • Implementing the standard must be royalty-free.

Scott Preece - Desktop Architect

I understand that the proposed standard is really a surrogate for Microsoft's claim to legitimacy in markets where support for open standards and interoperability are critical.

However, it's also true that (a) in many problem spaces there are multiple standards and (b) the normal role of the standards process is to formalize existing practice rather than to make policy or invent "better" practices. I once chaired a POSIX working group that was trying to forge a single standard to unify practice where there were two existing practices; ultimately the effort failed and the two practices were individually standardized. And the world didn't end.


David "Lefty" Schlesinger - Chair, Linux Foundation Mobile Working Group

There are serious issues with OOXML being adopted as a standard, as the references show.

  • Interoperability is, in fact, pretty limited
  • The legal status of future versions is murky
  • The proposed standard is ginormous (that's an official word now, according to Merriam-Webster), and hasn't had a reasonable review period (and might, at over 6,000 pages, be too large to reasonably review, especially since it's pretty much duplicative of ODF)

The GrokLaw article references Google's statement on OOXML, which I endorse. If there are aspects of ODF which Microsoft would like to see improved, then let's work together to improve ODF. This new proposed standard seems unnecessary and burdensome.


John Walicki - IBM Open Client Architect

IBM is a strong supporter of open standards because they allow for fair competition among market players based on the creation and the implementation of the standards and do not allow one party to control the standard and therefore the marketplace. The ODF standard can be implemented and used by anyone on any platform, at any time, and no license or fee is required. This provides consumers with complete control and ownership of their documents, forever. ODF is truly open with contributions from dozens of companies. Changes to ODF will likewise be determined by the community. ODF provides a format that will be available to all without any specific company or companies controlling its fate or future.

We are very concerned about many aspects of the ooXML specification that is currently under ballot in ISO/IEC JTC1 including many technical issues concerning the quality of the specification.

  • It is unclear whether all vendors will be able to implement a fully compliant version of the ooXML specification. The specification references other specifications which are not publicly available and for which the Intellectual Property Rights are unknown.
  • The ooXML specification conflicts with many other International Standards (Language Codes, Paper Sizes, Colour codes, etc.) by implementing its own specific codes.
  • The ooXML specification defines capabilities (e.g. Mathematical Formulas, Vector Graphics) instead of simply referring to W3C specifications, which are internationally accepted and widely used.
  • The ooXML specifications rely on Windows specific capabilities. Document exchange with other operating systems is not guaranteed. An International Standard should be technology neutral.

Google
Jeremy Allison - Samba Architect
Dan Kegel - Staff Software Engineer

Google is concerned about the potential adoption of Microsoft's Office Open XML (OOXML) format as an ISO standard. Google supports open standards and the Open Document Format (ODF), an existing ISO standard that has been a driver for innovation. We do not think it is beneficial to introduce an alternative standard when the Open Document Format already meets the common definitions of an open standard, has received ISO approval and is in wide use around the world.

  • Multiple incompatible standards are a bad thing for customer choice, as purchasers of Betamax video recorders discovered to their cost. Multiple implementations of a single standard are good for both the industry and for customers.
  • OOXML is a brand new format, different from the existing .DOC, .XLS and .PPT formats that are widely used by Microsoft Office. In order to move to an XML-based format these documents will have to be translated. It would make more sense to convert to ODF, the existing ISO standard for editable document types.
  • ODF has at least twelve different implementations of software that can read and write ODF files. Many of the OOXML implementations are from partners of Microsoft who have contractual agreements to implement OOXML software. Multiple independent implementations help a standard mature quicker and become more useful to its users.
  • There is considerable legal uncertainty around the scope of Microsoft's Open Specification Promise covering OOXML, which appears only to cover the exact version of the specification currently published, but not any optional portions, future revisions or enhancements. It doesn't even appear to cover the portions that specify how to read all OOXML files converted by Office 2007 from .DOC files. The legal uncertainty surrounding the scope of this license grant weighs heavily against the propriety of ISO acceptance of the OOXML standard.

References


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