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Brazil Appeals OOXML Decision 129

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Brazil is now appealing the ISO's decision to standardize OOXML, following South Africa's lead. Interestingly, part of the reason this took so long was that Microsoft supporters at the meetings kept asking for delays because they 'weren't prepared' to discuss the issues raised. And the ISO as a whole is moving rather slowly, after that delay in releasing the DIS. But at least the ISO is also rewriting the directives in a special working group so this doesn't happen again. Of course, they'd have to be strict about making sure the directives are followed for it to help."
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Brazil Appeals OOXML Decision

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  • first post! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hwk_br ( 570932 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:20PM (#23591471) Homepage
    And I am from Brasil! I could see this coming... Open source is taken VERY seriously her...
  • It won't matter. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:20PM (#23591489)
    I don't care how ISO re-writes whatever.

    The problem was NOT that they didn't have the rules in place.

    The problem was that the rules were NOT followed. And ISO was unable (unwilling) to rectify the "errors" once they had been committed. And ISO is still unwilling to identify the individuals within its organization who committed the "errors" and take any action.
    • by Chandon Seldon ( 43083 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:42PM (#23591825) Homepage

      That's one way of looking at it.

      The other way of looking at it are that the ISO is naturally really, really slow and these appeals are the appropriate first step in showing that there was a problem.

      • No. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:58PM (#23592053)

        The other way of looking at it are that the ISO is naturally really, really slow and these appeals are the appropriate first step in showing that there was a problem.
        No. The reason ISO is slow SHOULD be to avoid errors in the process.

        Fixing the errors slowly means that ISO is worthless.

        And WAITING for someone to APPEAL the process means that ISO is worse than worthless. They cannot even manage their own internal systems. For a "standards" organization, that is beyond unacceptable. That means they produce corrupted standards.

        As evidence, I give you OOXML.
        • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <{aussie_bob} {at} {hotmail.com}> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:39PM (#23595033) Journal
          Fixing the errors slowly means that ISO is worthless.

          Why the anger at ISO for this?

          Microsoft deliberately subverted the ISO process. They were able to wield extraordinary levels of influence in committees all around the world. And let's face it, ISO is not the only organsation they have subverted. The US DoJ, state of Massachusetts, Libyan government, etc, etc have all succumbed at one time or another.

          How many organsations would have been able to withstand the sort of pressure MS applied to ISO?

          If this is evidence for anything, it's that Microsoft is out of control and must be split up, if only to reduce its power of influence.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rbanffy ( 584143 )
          "No. The reason ISO is slow SHOULD be to avoid errors in the process.

          Fixing the errors slowly means that ISO is worthless."

          What if fixing errors is part of the standard process? Couldn't a bad fix be worse than the errors in following the process?
      • Re:It won't matter. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:00PM (#23592077)
        That's not another way of looking at it, that's a complementary opinion.

        That the final specification text for OOXML is not available [robweir.com] when it was due May 1st (or March 29th, depending on who you listen to) shows how the ISO aren't following their own rules. It also shows that there are a lot of problems getting OOXML into a state ready for public consumption because it's of such poor quality, that it was a premature abortion of a standard in no fit state to be useful to the world.

        The ISO/IEC JTC1 and SC34 are now deprecated. Realy standards are made at OASIS.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The ISO/IEC JTC1 and SC34 are now deprecated. Realy standards are made at OASIS.

          "Real" standards are made at W3C. W3C Recommendations are under a royalty-free patent license, allowing anyone to implement them, unlike the "reasonable and non-discriminatory" (RAND) licensing model in other standard bodies including OASIS.

          Of course, even W3C has its problems, as some people consider W3C to be dominated by larger organizations. Still, I consider W3C to be the most anti-proprietary standards body.

          Now if only Ogg Theora became the baseline video standard for the Web and these larger organiz

          • HTML5 - do-over (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            ... Now if only Ogg Theora became the baseline video standard for the Web and these larger organizations (i.e. Nokia and Apple) could leave W3C alone.
            Actually that scandal, at least on Nokia's part, can be traced to a mole from MS that got into Nokia and wormed his way onto the W3C's HTML5 committee representing Nokia. Conflict of interests there ought to negate that decision about Ogg and tainted members replaced for a do-over.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) *
            W3C is the World Wide Web Consortium - they wouldn't work on a word processing (etc) standard document, though they might work on web-specific extensions to such a document.
      • by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <NMerriam@artboy.org> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:18PM (#23592331) Homepage

        The other way of looking at it are that the ISO is naturally really, really slow and these appeals are the appropriate first step in showing that there was a problem.


        The purpose of being a slow, deliberative body is to prevent major errors from being made in the first place.

        Making errors quickly and then fixing them slowly is the worst possible combination of attributes for a governing body to have.
      • by KlomDark ( 6370 )
        How slow are they? What is this, an Entmoot [wikipedia.org]?

        ENT - ISO = DEE (As in Dee Dee Dee?)??
      • the ISO is naturally really, really slow

        Well, those fuckers sure managed to jam OOXML down our throats pretty damn fast!

    • by BPPG ( 1181851 )
      If they were forced to admit any errors, there would even more time spent in an inquest of some sort, as well as possibly calling into question any of the ISO's past decisions. Rectifying these errors at the moment would likely make everything work even more slowly, or just ruin ISO altogether. Maybe later, but right now it might ISO's deathblow to acknowledge it's own flaws.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Then maybe it's time for them to be replaced with something that actually does work and is willing to admit to and fix flaws.
      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        If a standards organization is in a position where correcting errors isn't feasible be it for technical, administrative, or political reasons, it is already ruined.

    • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:13PM (#23592249)
      Microsoft moves faster than the speed of the law.
    • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @05:27PM (#23593175)
      South Africa's appeal says something to the effect that OOXML should have never been fast tracked much less approved. Fast Tracking is intended for mature standards that just need to be quickly rubber-stamped when there are no major issues. OOXML is not that standard. It still needs a lot of work and according to the rules, the issues should have been addressed before block vote. The ECMA simply declared that there were no major issues and moved for a block vote.
      • Right, fast-tracking is for when you want to take the implementation of an existing established and widely used technology and turn it into a standard.

        The reason it makes sense to fast track is because problems with it will already have been addressed by the creator of the technology, and spending a lot of time hypothesizing about potential problems within the ISO doesn't make much sense.

        OOXML doesn't qualify, so they were already deviating from the intended purpose before they even began to debate the tech
        • by sjames ( 1099 )

          That is particularly true since apparently even the creator of OOXML doesn't have a compliant implementation.

  • by PitaBred ( 632671 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMpitabred.dyndns.org> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:21PM (#23591493) Homepage
    Oh, wait... sorry, forgot whose pocket my congresscritter was in. Carry on :)
    • by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:30PM (#23591633) Journal
      The US voted for approval from the start (big suprise: American company gets supported by an uninformed America) so we wouldn't be likely to protest. Anyways, who is it that does the ISO voting for America? I am not sure it is congresscritters.
      • by holloway ( 46404 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:03PM (#23592119) Homepage
        The US technical committee INCITS V1 was stacked [robweir.com]. Check that site for a graph of late joining members who suddenly voted for OOXML.
        • That appears to be a parked domain...
        • new rule (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jgoemat ( 565882 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:48PM (#23592709)
          "Members cannot vote on any directive or standard that was introduced before they joined"
          • Interestingly, Supreme Court justices follow this for cases. I think it is more of a convention than an actual rule. If you ever read any decisions where a Justice abstains that is the main reason: Justice X abstained from an opinion as he/she was not present when the case was argued.
            • by jgoemat ( 565882 )
              That makes me think of something interesting I heard on NPR the other week. Another common reason for justices to recuse themselves if they have a financial interest or if they personally know the parties or lawyers involved. That would probably take care of Microsoft stacking the deck as well. It would only make sense to have the firms that came up with the proposed standard and their associates to be on the committees investigating the standards to answer and address questions and problems, but they sh
      • The US voted for approval from the start (big suprise: American company gets supported by an uninformed America) so we wouldn't be likely to protest.

        Ummm, why would you automatically assume that the American delegates would vote against Google, IBM, Red Hat, Sun [odfalliance.org], and all the other American ODF Alliance members? This isn't "US vs. The World", it's "One US Company vs. The Rest".

        Now, we know that M$ [1] stacked the deck here. In a hypothetical unbiased panel, though, voting for Microsoft isn't necessarily voting for the interests of America.

        [1] When discussing the crap like they do like this, M$ is a perfectly reasonable abbreviation.

    • Pfft, that's easy. You have one in each pocket, left and right, just in case....
  • Too Little Too Late (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pembo13 ( 770295 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:25PM (#23591563) Homepage
    The damage has already been done, to the ISO organization at least.
    • ISO = I Sold Out (Score:5, Insightful)

      by denis-The-menace ( 471988 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:32PM (#23591665)
      The word that you can buy ISO standards.

      Unless a bunch of heads roll and replaced non-corp people, the ISO would have a more credibility if they showed a price list than doing this.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by swillden ( 191260 )

        The word that you can buy ISO standards.

        I think it's too soon to say that. Let's see what happens with the handling of the protests. ISO may yet redeem itself.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          No, now is the time. Even the group rewriting ISO rules is the same group that made this mess in the first place, and the single US representative to work on this committee is from Microsoft.

          It's fair to be outraged now, not to wait for history to judge this.

        • by SanityInAnarchy ( 655584 ) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:16PM (#23592305) Journal
          Too soon? They already bought the standard.

          This is attempting to correct the problem, yes. But saying that we should withhold judgment because ISO may redeem itself is nonsensical -- the concept of redemption implies that wrong has been done.

          As it stands, ISO is worthless. If the appeal process goes anywhere, then we can talk about respecting them again.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by swillden ( 191260 )

            Too soon? They already bought the standard.

            I don't think that's correct. It was approved, but IIRC, there are a couple more steps that have to happen before it's really final.

            Also, I think the language applied by you and many others is too harsh. ISO's processes were designed in the context of a set of cooperating entities trying to achieve mutual consensus on a standard for the benefit of all. It's really no surprise that Microsoft was able to subvert it. Even within the current framework there is a mechanism to reverse the damage, and the

      • Re:ISO = I Sold Out (Score:4, Interesting)

        by thermian ( 1267986 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:52PM (#23591975)
        The apparent ease with which Microsoft achieved this does beg the question 'how many times has this happened before?'.

        ISO's been around for a while, and I can't see that this is the first standard that stood to make the controlling company rich. There's no doubt Microsoft would have remained in control of the standard, 6000 pages of complex specification that even they haven't yet implemented fully can mean nothing else.

        So, are we about to see the dirty secrets of ISO revealed? Will we find that the top bods have been lining their little pockets?

        I hope not, but I'm very dubious.
        • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:03PM (#23592111) Journal
          If ISO is, itself, ISO9000-compliant then they must have procedures in place to ensure that they were at least this incompetent a year ago, from which we can extrapolate the number of bogus important standards.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          That's not begging the question. It does raise the question however.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rbanffy ( 584143 )
          "The apparent ease with which Microsoft achieved this"

          It was not easy at all. Stuffing committees, bribing people and allocating staff to stall meetings must cost a bunch of money.

          They did it, but it was not _that_ easy.
    • and the briber? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:54PM (#23591997) Journal

      ISO doesn't look good for having accepted the bribery.

      What I don't understand is how Microsoft can keep pulling these sorts of stunts, and not suffer for it. What most people think is this: Office file format lock? Never realized formats could be open. WGA? Excused and forgiven. Bundling? Barely noticed, and when it is, feel that's a good thing. The anti-trust lawsuit? Delayed to death, then watered down to nothing. The CPU tax? Under the radar. DRM, and the attempt to suppress all non-MS multimedia formats? Mostly swallowed, because artists deserve a chance to make a profit. Though I understand Zune isn't doing too well. Miserable security? Fooled. Think that's normal, just part of life to have to live with Norton AV, and all the slowness and inconvenience. Vista? Jury is still out on that one, maybe this is the big one that will finally get people to question MS. As for this shenanigan, it will go unnoticed.

      • You know, if Microsoft were in any other industry, they would have been sued to oblivion and back by now. Seriously, everything Microsoft has ever made has been shoddy, nonfunctional crap that would be rejected even by the members of the Pinto and Yugo Fans of America club!

  • Why wait? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:25PM (#23591573) Journal
    Why one earth should Brazil wait for MS to be ready? It is Brazil that is (theoretically) in charge here, not MS. If MS is not ready by the set date, too bad. After all, this isn't supposed to me MS's format anymore.
    • Re:Why wait? (Score:5, Informative)

      I think you misread the summary. The situation is like this:

      In Brazil, there is a working group made up of representatives of government, trade, and public organizations. Some of the trade reps to the working group are pro-MS and pro-OOXML. The group majority was ready to protest, but the OOXML-supporting minority asked them to wait so they could organize their side of the story. The working group, being made up of thoughtful and respectful people, gave them their chance to come up with counter-arguments. When nothing convincing was presented in time before the formal protest had to be lodged, they went and lodged the protest.

      This doesn't have to do with the Brazilian government vs. Microsoft Corp. (at least, not on the surface). This was a group of people who represent Brazil at the ISO, some of whom happen to support MS and their views on the world.
      • Re:Why wait? (Score:5, Informative)

        by tagishsimon ( 175038 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:42PM (#23591829) Homepage
        I think all the posts and the lead story misrepresent the position. Brazil is sending a "protest" against the BRM and delay in publishing the standard; it is not appealing.

        The author of the linked article felt strongly enough about the distinction between protest and appeal that he has resigned his position.

        I do not understand fully the difference between the protest and an appeal, but strongly suspect that the former does not lead to a requirement to re-open consideration of whether the proposal should be accepted as a standard.

        As the author makes clear in his article, M$ has triumphed again, excellent meeting engineers that they are, and Brazil and the rest of us have lost again.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          A protest is just an email and a public fuss, it's not a formal appeal and it has no power to stop the standards process.

          It's not worthless because it will help rise the issue to other nations but it's not worth much :(

        • MOD PARENT UP (Score:5, Informative)

          by Omni-Cognate ( 620505 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:25PM (#23592411)

          The article is very difficult to read, due to poor English (no offense meant - I don't speak a word of Portuguese!) However, having waded through it, it is clear the parent is correct, and the summary is completely wrong.

          The article's author is resigning from the ABNT, specifically because it is not appealing. It is only "protesting", whatever that means. The article claims the failure to appeal is due to Microsoft supporters claiming they did not have enough time to weigh the arguments, which sounds a bit rich in the circumstances.

        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Does I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property ever read the articles he links to? His summaries are always much more inflammatory than the articles, and get important details wrong.

          Getting the details right is very important if you want to convince people that you know what you're talking about, or convince them to support your position. This kind of sloppy summary just hurts what seems to be an otherwise important argument.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          You are right!
          Fortunately, as I wrote TFA's author requesting to see ABNT's letter anyway, I was surprised to know that ABNT actually submitted an appeal to ISO. (Which the author himself didn't knew up to the time of blogging).

          ABNT's full letter can be found in this other blog [consortiuminfo.org].
      • I think that if that's the way it happened, it was a nice way not to fall for a possible stall tactic.
  • Opendoc (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    This isn't discussed much here, but even opendoc was rushed. In my opinion opendoc was not yet ready to be a standard. It needed more time to sort out some of the more underspecified things. I'm not even going to comment about why I think of OOXML.

    If I see the effort that was put in the C standard, compared to the current standards, I can only be very very sad.
    • Re:Opendoc (Score:4, Informative)

      Just so you know, Opendoc is a format created by Apple computer, not to be confused with ODF (Open Document Format) which I think you were talking about.

      ODF went through the regular vetting procedure; it might have been rushed, but it passed all of the standards checks. OOXML, on the other hand, went through the fast track process normally reserved for formats that are already in use and mature but not yet official standards. Rushing a fast-track procedure on a format that should never have been submitted to it in the first place is miles away from keeping the regular process moving along as fast as possible. At least the end result for ODF was a usable standard, even if it still contained a few flaws that needed to be fixed. OOXML still doesn't even have a published final draft of the standard.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by mean pun ( 717227 )

        OOXML, on the other hand, went through the fast track process normally reserved for formats that are already in use and mature but not yet official standards.

        I certainly don't want to make light of Microsoft's blatant manipulation of the processes, but in some sense the Microsoft Office formats are `already in use and mature'. Anyone on a standards committee who is only a simple Windows/Office user because s/he is an expert in an entirely different field, may well be astonished that people would be against fast-tracking Microsoft's standards. After all, it's the only document standard they use daily. And of course all protests against the standardization are

        • Re:Opendoc (Score:5, Informative)

          by jvkjvk ( 102057 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @05:29PM (#23593203)

          I certainly don't want to make light of Microsoft's blatant manipulation of the processes, but in some sense the Microsoft Office formats are `already in use and mature'. Anyone on a standards committee who is only a simple Windows/Office user because s/he is an expert in an entirely different field, may well be astonished that people would be against fast-tracking Microsoft's standards. After all, it's the only document standard they use daily. And of course all protests against the standardization are troublesome meddling by ivory-tower activists.
          I believe that you are incorrect. It is my understanding that Microsoft's current document output formats do not meet this standard, and will not for some time. Thus, they are not in use at all and actually probably never will be (they are already planning a revision to the spec, which probably also won't be implemented).
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          > I certainly don't want to make light of Microsoft's blatant manipulation of the processes, but in some sense the Microsoft Office formats are `already in use and mature'.

          No, they are NOT.

          doc, xls, ppt are "mature". They are not open, though, and will be deprecated (one can hope!).

          OOXML (docx etc.) is not mature by any measure or stretch.

          Stop spreading falsehoods as truth.

          Or, if it was unitentional, think better before speaking.
        • Re:Opendoc (Score:5, Informative)

          I certainly don't want to make light of Microsoft's blatant manipulation of the processes, but in some sense the Microsoft Office formats are `already in use and mature'.
          If Microsoft had submitted Office 95 formats to the fast track, that would make sense; the formats are widely used and fixed in one format. There are issues with the format that would have to be addressed, and Microsoft would have to make those changes to its Office suite to conform to the new standard, but it would be doable.

          In this case however, they submitted a format via EMCA that was bloated, broken, has undisclosed parts that are not documented, and which isn't even compatable with the single product, offered by them, that purports to support the format.

          Of course, conflations like you've made above are part of the issue here as well: because Microsoft has a legacy Office set of formats, people might be surprised that others are so against this specific and distinctly seperate format because they think they're the same thing.

          However, people on *technical* standards committees are (supposed to be) there because they know the details and the technology. They are by definition experts in the field, otherwise they wouldn't be part of that specific standards committee; they'd be in the one covering technology in their own field of expertise.

          The problem here is that a lot of people "from the community" joined because Microsoft paid/pressured them to, with the instruction to push OOXML through. From what I've heard, none of these members actually have a clue about OOXML or office document standards.

          This is the problem that ISO is purportedly trying to fix.
        • Ignoring the fact that Office 2007's .docx (etc.) and OOXML are not the same format, even docx is rather rare. Most people I know are still using some older version which only has support for the old binary formats, and those that I know who have Office 2007 have to be reminded to save in the old formats because otherwise no one can read them. Microsoft Office is the de facto standard, but Office 2007 is a relatively new product, so it would be quite a stretch to say .docx is as well.
        • Re:Opendoc (Score:5, Informative)

          by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Thursday May 29, 2008 @07:19PM (#23594341)

          I certainly don't want to make light of Microsoft's blatant manipulation of the processes, but in some sense the Microsoft Office formats are `already in use and mature'.

          Maybe, but the Microsoft Office formats, even in the newest version, ARE NOT THE SAME THING AS OOXML! They do not conform to that thing that ISO so euphemistically calls a 'standard!'

    • I agree. ODF is still a very immature format and should not have been made an ISO standard. The fact it was allowed the OXML lobby to shout 'you made one half-thought-out office document format a standard, why not two?' and ISO had no real answer to this.
      • Re:Opendoc (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2008 @05:09PM (#23592951)
        How was it immature? It was at least was complete within its scope. It had no major errors (discounting Alex Browns nonsense that wasn't even part of ODF conformance or compliance).

        Contrast this to OOXML.

        What should have it had to have been complete? And similarly would you have approved HTML 2, or HTML 3.2, or HTML 4.01 based because they didn't have feature X?

        That's not how standards are or could be. It's about agreeing upon a scope and defining itself within that. It's ok to have complete standards within their scope standardised.

      • The fact it was allowed the OXML lobby to shout 'you made one half-thought-out office document format a standard, why not two?' and ISO had no real answer to this.

        And even that, in itself, is ludicrously stupid too! Obviously, the answer is "because we already fucking have one, so we don't need another!"

  • by John Jamieson ( 890438 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @03:54PM (#23591995)
    Is the ISO rewriting the rules so the protest and appeals cannot happen again?

    or

    Is the ISO rewiting the rules so the corruption cannot occur again?

    I would not bet my life on the second.
  • Wrong Headline! (Score:5, Informative)

    by alexborges ( 313924 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:12PM (#23592239)
    Brasil does NOT appeal OOXML decission but only PROTESTS against it because a Microsoft SHILL within their standards body imposed his/her view over even the FIRST NO vote of brasil regarding the standard.
  • RTFA (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shentino ( 1139071 ) <shentino@gmail.com> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @04:41PM (#23592629)
    Brazil did not appeal, only protested.

    This difference may very well matter as far as ISO procedures are concerned.
    • by gtall ( 79522 )
      From the letter to ISO from Brazil: "The AssociaÃão Brasileira de Normas Técnicas (ABNT), as a P member of ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC34, would like to present, to ISO/IEC/JTC1 and ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC34, this appeal for reconsideration of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 final result."

      Gerry
    • Their letter starts with "The Associacao Brasileira de Normas Tecnicas (ABNT), as a P member of ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC34, would like to present, to ISO/IEC/JTC1 and ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC34, this appeal for reconsideration of the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 final result." That would appear to be an ... appeal.
  • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <i_have_mental_health_issues@yahoo.com> on Thursday May 29, 2008 @06:07PM (#23593663)

    Would someone please explain what the deal about the ISO and OOXML is and why it is so important as concisely as possible?

    I understand both the importance of open source and standards, but I get kind of lost on what the ISO is, Microsoft's involvement, and what exactly OOXML is. What will the impact of OOXML being standardized be?

    • Re:Explanation plz (Score:5, Informative)

      by alexborges ( 313924 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @07:38PM (#23594517)
      Youre looking in the wrong place. Best suited for your inquiry (or however one should write that), is groklaw.

      For a short blurb:
      1) MS has been the past few years under some pressure from big customers, particularly governments, to use a non-binary more open format for office documents.
      2) It got to the point of some of this clients mandating that the office software they bought should support an open, ISO sanctioned standard for storing office documents.
      3) Microsoft responded to this attempting to create an ISO standard, FUDdigly called Office Open XML (in an obvious attempt to thwart an already existing standard, whose reference implementation is Open Office, called Open Document Format, that was alaready sanctioned by ISO)
      4) We (as in we, the open source zelots), got really mad at this position because its not tennable from many standpoints:
          a) [most important] The submited documentation for supporting OOXML proved to be pretty lame, basically the document "standard" reflected implementation details of the MS Office product line. Such speciffic details are not welcome in any "standard" that should be usable by all.
          b) The quality of the proposed standard was also very questionable because, first of all, there is no reference implementation of it. Not even MSOffice supports the documented standard in their docX, pptX..etc. files.
          c) There is ALREADY an open standard, the one openoffice uses, called ODF, and it is non-patent-encumbered. COnversely, MS's proposal, was IP encumbered (meaning that they purpoted to keep control of it and reserve the right for them to make proprietary extensions to it and still call it an ISO standard). Additionally the ISO organization traditional stance is that they do not accept competing standards. If there is already one standard, then thats the Office Document ISO standard and none other.
            d) In any case, the process to get this thing approved is lengthy and i cant get into it now. Suffice it to say that microsoft bribed many officials GLOBALLY and stalled the proceedings to get their "standard" aproved.

      So there. Im gonna ask PJ for a job.
    • Re:Explanation plz (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jesterzog ( 189797 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @07:56PM (#23594655) Homepage Journal

      I understand both the importance of open source and standards, but I get kind of lost on what the ISO is, Microsoft's involvement, and what exactly OOXML is. What will the impact of OOXML being standardized be?

      Well you probably know most of this, but I'll re-iterate it just in case. Basically there are a lot of organisations, particularly governments, who have recently either declared, or have indicated that they're likely to declare, a policy to only use open formats in various situations (such as document storage). This effectively rules out native MS Office formats because they haven't been open.

      Such declarations have been treated as great for open formats (such as OASIS), and Open Source, and users generally, because it's much easier to write/maintain applications, open source or otherwise, which implement and use open formats. In other words, if you use an open format, you're much less likely to get locked into a particular software vendor, such as Microsoft, whose closed formats require you to use their software to open them reliably and accurately (at least in theory and according to popular belief in management circles). For the same reasons, open formats tend to be much more useful when exchanging documents. For example, it means that I don't have to buy Windows, install Windows, buy Office, and install Office, just so I can open some kind of law change proposition that a government department might have forwarded to me in an Office 2003 format.

      Microsoft has been in danger of losing control over the market, because Office's dominance relies at least partially on format lock-in, and a cascading effect between organisations of document exchange. Organisations often standardise on Office and its formats specifically because they deal with many other businesses and organisations that also use Office. If some key organisations (such as governments) suddenly decide to standardise on open formats, it'll likely have a similar cascading effect whereby other organisations that deal with them will also adapt their systems to be able to interoperate with those open formats. Standardising on open formats means that even if people somehow use MS Office to produce them, organisations that set such a policy won't necessarily be locked into Office any more, and neither will all the organisations that deal with them.

      Microsoft's answer was to declare that they'd be standardising and opening the Office 2007 formats, so that the key organisations would still be able to buy and use Office. (They probably could have claimed that Office 2007 would just support an existing open format such as OASIS, but they didn't.) Microsoft wanted to get the ISO to rubber-stamp their new OOXML format to prove to governments and other organisations that it really is open. The ISO (aka the International Standards Organisation) is a highly respected organisation on approving standards, so to get an ISO stamp is basically to declare to everyone that yes it is an open standard and it's been carefully peer reviewed to make sure of this.

      The problem is that a lot of people think that OOXML really isn't open, for a variety of reasons which you've probably heard of, and that it's just a tool for Microsoft to keep control of the market using what's really a closed format whilst using double-speak and claiming that it's open, so it'll get accepted. There's also a lot of belief that Microsoft manipulated the ISO and its voting member organisations in some very despicable ways to get their Office 2007 formats rubber-stamped as an "open standard" when it really doesn't deserve to be.

      Ultimately this means that employees of governments and organisations which declared they'll be using "open" formats might still standardise their work on Microsoft's OOXML formats, using the ISO's rubber-stamp to justify what they're doing, even though OOXML doesn't actually offer the interoperability benefits that a real open standard should offer, and arguably nobody would win except Microsoft.

    • Re:Explanation plz (Score:5, Informative)

      by holloway ( 46404 ) on Thursday May 29, 2008 @08:56PM (#23595157) Homepage
      Here's my take on it, as copied from my blog [holloway.co.nz] (which is down right now but check back in 24 hours if you want the links) The ISO Standardisation of OOXML in 17 Easy Steps
      1. We have had over 15 years of secret file-formats changing with every version of Microsoft Office in order to stifle competition and force annual upgrades to compatible software (the upgrade treadmill),
      2. It's a principle of government that they should be vendor neutral. If a government said "All Ford trucks can drive 20 kilometres faster than all other cars" there would be outrage! In the late 1990s governments all around the world realized that web sites shouldn't favour Microsoft Internet Explorer, and that they must use vendor-neutral standards.
      3. This argument is then extended to Office Suites and their secret file-formats. For vendor-neutrality/competition some governments propose moving away from Microsoft Office's format to a new standard called OpenDocument (ODF) which is used by OpenOffice.org, KOffice and many others. ODF was approved by ISO under the 'PAS' process.
      4. Microsoft are concerned that they'll lose their government sales because their Office Suite doesn't use a standard. If government start using a competitor and putting money into them then maybe something like Firefox will spring up to take them on in Office Suites. Their Microsoft Office cash-cow that earns them (something like) 3.8 billion every 3 months is under threat!
      5. Microsoft respond not by supporting ODF but by proposing a competing faux-standard, OOXML (Office Open XML). They hurriedly rush through some poorly written documentation with hundreds (if not thousands) of mistakes that can't be implemented in full. This is good enough for Ecma International, who approve it as a standard called ECMA-376. ECMA-376 is a complete mess -- inconsistent, buggy, inflexible, ugly (non-mixed content model, OLE, DEVMODE).
      6. ECMA-376 is submitted to the ISO under the 'Fast Track' process, and is now given the name DIS-29500. It's not a normal process that allows time for improvement, it's a brief 9 month review of 6000 pages (that's a lot).
      7. Lobbying begins internationally. To stereotype the process into two camps, it's the people who want to get out from the monopoly Vs those who benefit from the monopoly (Microsoft and business partners).
      8. Every country gets a vote in the ISO, so New Zealand is as big as the United States, China, India ... and each country has 9 months to comment on OOXML. The proposed standard is soon recognized as being technically awful, broken, not-cross-platform, designed to confer the appearance of standardisation but without the detail necessary.
      9. The ISO doesn't necessarily decide on technical merit, there's a lot of non-techies who are open to all kinds of arguments other than the quality of the standard. They're not the ITTF either, they don't need implementations to prove the standard. The 'Fast Track' can just approve stuff.
      10. Process irregularities come out in favour of Microsoft. There are accusations of corruption. They're caught stuffing the ballot in Sweden. Lots of small African nations suddenly sign-up and favour Microsoft. Public perception is that the ISO process itself is quite hackable.
      11. Microsoft lose the late 2007 vote, but there's another final chance.
      12. Microsoft make some changes to OOXML in response to national comments, but a 9 month review has only touched the surface of the problems within OOXML.
      13. They probably will win this current vote (March 2008) and gain ISO approval for OOXML.
      14. A lot more accusations of process irregularities, some by people from within the process.
      15. If OOXML gains approval then the ISOs reputation will be in tatters within the technical community.
      16. The backlash against Microsoft and the ISO will be strong. This Slashdot post sumarises this well: Slashdot: Microsoft's Miscalculation.
      17. But really we're just b
    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

      Thanks for the replies. It all makes sense now. Microsoft's involvement is not surprising in this. /=

  • The ISO can do whatever it wants now. It won't make a damn bit of difference. It's already been proven how incompetent the governing body is, and how little regard people have for it; whatever the big names (Microsoft) want, they're going to get through sheer force of attrition.

    They can rewrite their rules until they have a big rewriting orgy. It doesn't matter; the damage has already been done, and in my eyes, the damage is irreparable.
  • It makes you wonder what they have done to everything else. Especially worrying is what Microsoft could do to world governments....
  • "India and Brazil have filed appeals against the adoption of the Microsoft-sponsored Office Open XML (OOXML) document format as an international standard."

    http://www.pcworld.com/businesscenter/article/146468/india_and_brazil_file_appeals_against_ooxml_standardization.html [pcworld.com]

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