On September 2, the comment and voting period will close on
ISO/IEC DIS 29500, the draft specification based upon Microsoft’s
Office Open XML formats (OOXML).
The Linux Foundation (LF) has received questions from outside
its membership regarding its position on adoption of OOXML in its
current form as a global standard, and on the adoption process
By way of context: Central to the mission of the Linux Foundation,
is the creation of standards that become widely adopted. In
furtherance of that result, the Linux Foundation (then known as the
Free Standards Group) successfully submitted the Linux Standard
Base (LSB) to ISO/IEC for adoption through a process similar to
that now being employed to review OOXML. The LSB has now been
implemented by all major distributions of Linux.
As a result, the Linux Foundation is not only familiar with, but
has a vested interest in the preservation of the validity and
integrity of the global standards adoption process. When that
process works well, everyone wins. The modern world has become
utterly dependent upon technology, and therefore upon the ability
of standards organizations to provide interoperability and other
open standards as well. With the conversion of paper documents to
digital formats, the world has also become utterly dependent upon
the ability of those documents to be accessed in the future.
Creation of documents in proprietary formats at best jeopardizes
that ability, and at worst guarantees that easy access in the
future will be impossible.
Consequently, the Linux Foundation believes it is important for
effective and robust document format standards to be developed, and
for those standards to be universally adopted. In order for
universal adoption to be achieved, it is equally important for the
process that creates those standards to be above reproach.
More specifically, the Linux Foundation supports the activities of
the Linux Desktop Architects and their work enhancing the Linux
desktop. The Linux Foundation believes that Linux on the desktop
will become increasingly widely deployed, and therefore the
availability of robust, widely adopted – and easily implemented –
document format standards are of great importance to those that
develop, sell and use Linux in this way.
Finally, the Linux Foundation notes that there already exists an
ISO/IEC standard intended for a similar purpose – the Open Document
Format (ODF) – that has been implemented in at least a dozen
products, both open source as well as proprietary. These products
have been developed and released by multiple vendors (including
several Linux Foundation members). While the current voting in
ISO/IEC JTC1 is based upon the technical merits and issues relating
to OOXML, the Linux Foundation believes that the marketplace would
be better served by all vendors – including Microsoft – uniting
around the implementation and further development of a single,
common specification. Given the existence and prior ISO/IEC JTC1
adoption of ODF, and the fact that OOXML (which is a new
specification) will require translation of existing documents as
well, the Linux Foundation believes that the better platform for
that effort would be ODF.
With that as prelude, the Linux Foundation offers the following
advice to those that are still considering how to vote on ISO/IEC
- The OOXML specification is extremely lengthy. Based upon all
that we have been able to learn, the review period that has been
allowed is insufficient to provide confidence that all issues that
may need to be resolved before OOXML could meet minimum quality
standards. Accordingly, the Linux Foundation believes that adoption
of OOXML, after addressing only those issues that have been
identified to date, would be unwise.
- That said, there have already been hundreds of issues that have
been raised. While some of these issues are minor, many are not.
The Linux Foundation believes that OOXML is simply not mature
enough at this point to be granted approval as an ISO/IEC standard.
Many, but not all, of these issues have been summarized here:
- ISO/IEC standards are supposed to reference other globally
adopted standards where those standards exist. In the case of
OOXML, many proprietary Microsoft specifications have been
referenced. In some cases (e.g., language codes, vector graphics),
Microsoft has used its own, internal codes and specifications
rather than already existing, publicly available alternatives. This
not only violates ISO/IEC rules, but also puts in question whether
implementers can fully implement OOXML without infringing
intellectual property rights (IPR) of Microsoft. Will those IPRs be
available? If so, upon what terms will they be available? The
answers to these questions appear to be currently unknown.
- OOXML is specific to Windows and other Microsoft products. It
is uncertain whether OOXML-based documents will be easily created,
saved, and opened using other operating systems–like Linux–and
applications, with or without converters or translators. An
international standard should be created in the first instance to
be neutral to all operating systems and other products.
For all these reasons and more, the Linux Foundation calls upon
those National Bodies that have not yet cast their votes to vote
“No, with comments.” Those comments should reflect their best,
neutral, technical judgment, based upon OOXML in its current form.
Only by doing so, we believe, can both the future availability of
documents, but the integrity of the standard setting process be