OOXML is a failure as a “standard”

It goes without saying that I’m staggered, and appalled, at the recent events with the OOXML standardisation process. Others, more informed than me, have written extensively on the subject at sites such as Growlaw, OOXML, Open Malaysia, Bob Sutor, Rob Wier, and Andy Updegrove to name but a few. That it has been provisionally approved pending any appeals is bad enough, but Microsoft’s antics are spectacular in their ruthless disregard of ethics, due process and respect for standards.

This has driven me to write about it. I think it is important for interested parties to take a stand, make a noise, and generally create a fuss about what should be open standards. This is the first of a series of posts where I state my case based on my own reading an understanding of the situation. But I will be boycotting all of the OOXML-like file formats, the .docx format and it’s stable-mates.

Why do I want an open standard?

Open, non discriminatory, standards are essential in ensuring that the documents we, and our governments, produce are actually readable and usable beyond the application that was used to create it. There’s no point in having “supa-dupa” document format “X” when you can’t even open it in 20 years time. By having a truly open standard with multiple applications being able to read and write the format, particularly if one of them is free software or open source, we can guarantee that we will always be able to read that standard.

However, if we continue to use proprietary, monopoly supplied document formats then we run the risk of not being able to access those documents in years to come. We run the risk of permanently losing these documents; this might not be too bad if it is just a letter to your Grandmother, but it is a disaster if it is a contract, historical paper, scientific research or other important documents.

My next post will deal with what’s actually wrong with the MS OOXML ‘standard’.