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Standards Expert — "Microsoft Fails the Standards Test" 177

levell writes "Alex Brown, Convenor of the Ballot Resolution Meeting on OOXML, has written a blog post saying that Microsoft is failing the standards test. Mr. Brown notes: 'In its pre-release form Office 2010 supports not the approved Strict variant of OOXML, but the very format the global community rejected in September 2007, and subsequently marked as not for use in new documents — the Transitional variant. Microsoft are behaving as if the JTC 1 standardisation process never happened, and using technologies (like VML) in a new product which even the text of the Standard itself describes as "deprecated" and "included... for legacy reasons only"...' He also says that defects are being fixed very slowly and that 'Looking at the text, I reckon it is more like 95% that remains to be done, as it is still lousy with defects.' It's an insightful look at what has happened with OOXML since ISO approved it from someone who was not opposed to its becoming a standard."
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Standards Expert — "Microsoft Fails the Standards Test"

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  • "But Microsoft said it would respect me in the morning! And call me later!"

    The best bit of this gushing fountain of schadenfreude is the comments. Rob Weir pointing out that they were entirely fucked over precisely as Tim Bray predicted, and Alex and Rick Jelliffe still insisting that Microsoft will love them really once it sees just how pure and worthy their love is.

    Guys. You got fucked over. Ballmer had his sweaty way with you and got his ISO number. He deleted your number on his way back home. He is never going to light up your phone.

    • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:02PM (#31707080) Journal

      So, here's a new motto up for grabs: Don't be evil... unless you can pay the MS licensing fees?

    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      Is it safe to talk about Stockholm Syndrome in such cases already?

      Either way, since he was one of those who planted the seeds of the mess, while being constantly warned how it'll end up, I don't see how he can complain and expect to be treated seriously... (not that he won't be)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tuxgeek ( 872962 )

        since he was one of those who planted the seeds of the mess, while being constantly warned how it'll end up

        And this is a surprise because of .. WHY ???
        This is Microsoft after all ..

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It gets better. In the comments Jeremy Allison provided Mr. Brown with a reality check. Yet he still defends Microsoft with this response via the Ike Turner defense:

      Don't you think corporations change? Google from wide-eyed startup to the new Big Brother megacorp; Sun from centre of the technical solar system to bin-end bargain; IBM from evil monopolist market-abuser to ... no, wait ...

      Microsoft: Promise, baby. I won't hit ya no more, I love you, you know that.
      Mr. Brown: I know it baby. It just hurts th

    • by levell ( 538346 ) * on Friday April 02, 2010 @01:09PM (#31707824) Homepage

      I think that you have to give Alex Brown a lot of credit for this article. He effectively "sided" with Microsoft in the massive controversy that was the OOXML standardisation. In that position many people would convince themselves they had done the right thing and turn a blind eye to Microsoft's failings.

      That he's prepared to publicly do what he has make me have a little more respect for him and people like him (Rick Jelliffe) for the part they played in the mess that was the initial standardisation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by davester666 ( 731373 )

      But he double-dutch promised. He even flew in a pair of twins from Dutchland, and they double-dutch vouched for his promise. And you know how trustworthy the Dutch are.

      So now you know how deep our disappointment is. He has totally ruined our whole belief in the double-dutch system.

      Unless he had his fingers crossed behind his back. Did anybody remember to check? Both hands?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:00PM (#31707060)

    ... because he was sure full on in favour of his masters work and blind to its faults when the ballot took place.

  • by Sosetta ( 702368 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:01PM (#31707066)

    Why is this news? Microsoft doesn't follow any standards, and never has. It's part of their strategy. Since they're bigger than everyone else, everyone has to adhere to their (non) standards, which means everyone else is always playing catchup, and can never get ahead. This way implementation is never judged on speed or size, but instead judged on "how Microsoft-like" it is. Microsoft always wins that comparison.

    • by truthsearch ( 249536 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:05PM (#31707120) Homepage Journal

      It's news because governments are increasingly requiring computer data to be stored in standard formats. It's much easier to check that box if it's ISO approved. If, however, Office isn't using the ISO approved version of OOXML, there might be some governments who will never install Office 2010.

      Microsoft may be shooting themselves in the foot.

      • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:25PM (#31707334)
        Jane you ignorant slut, Microsoft created Microsoft Office Open XML because governments were starting to require an "open" standard for document storage. They created one they and millions of others knew could not be implemented. They then paid one standard organizations(ECMA) fees to get labeled a standard and then they hijacked a second standards organization(ISO) by flooding their committees with Microsoft partners in order to get it approved.

        It is the idiots who keep thinking Microsoft is going to do any of the things they say they'll do when it's said to get their way who are shooting themselves in the foot. And the really moronic thing is that they keep lining up to do this without seeing how many have done the exact same thing year after year after year.

        If this "news" gets any traction and Microsoft Office Open XML( notice how their product name is in the name of the standard ) gets bashed any more, they'll just pretend to do some work on it and the same idiots will think that something will come of it and they'll back off. 2, 3, or more years from now someone will cry that Microsoft isn't acting in good faith. Like I said, they're idiots. IMO

        • by Dishevel ( 1105119 ) * on Friday April 02, 2010 @01:01PM (#31707730)
          Parent is not a troll. Idiot moderator should try and recognize popular SNL lines before proving they are an idiot.
        • by Zumbs ( 1241138 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:12PM (#31708508) Homepage

          Fortunately, not all governments have fallen for the ploy. Recently, the Socialdemocratic-Socialist opposition forced the Conservative-Liberal government in Denmark to pass a law, requiring the state to use truly open formats. One major battle were exactly if OOXML should be considered an open standard. This battle were won by the opposition, as it managed to force the government to make a series of criteria for for what an open format is, where only ODT were included, and it is highly unlikely that the OOXML version including deprecated functionality will meet the criteria.

          Microsoft Office Open XML

          Are you sure that is the official name? If so, why isn't the abbreviation MOOXML?

          • why isn't the abbreviation MOOXML?

            PETA didn't like it. And *noone* messes with PETA.

          • by Locutus ( 9039 )
            from what I'd read, early on it was called Microsoft Office Open XML in ECMA and by ECMA. Many public statements used that naming too. I also saw somewhere that Microsoft requested they drop the "Microsoft" part of it.

            So if you abbreviate MS for Microsoft then you get the MS OOXML but if you just use M then it'd be M OOXML or MOOXML as you stated. All the same thing, a Microsoft Office dump and a steaming pile for people, businesses, standards orgs, and governments to step in. When you step in it, it oozes
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Nyder ( 754090 )

        Friends don't let friends use office, period.

  • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:01PM (#31707068)
    Really? End of subject.
  • by OopsIDied ( 1764436 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:02PM (#31707076)
    thanks to the average user, who does not care about these kinds of things.
  • by Palestrina ( 715471 ) * on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:03PM (#31707088) Homepage
    • Office 2010 will conform to the Transitional consumer and producer classes defined in the OOXML standards. Any bugs that are found in the shipped version of Office 2010 will be "fixed" by retroactively changing the standards to match what Office actually does, as is currently being done by Microsoft-packed SC34/WG4 committee with similar bugs found in Office 2007's OOXML support.
    • Office 2010 will not have conforming support for OOXML Strict producer or consumer classes.
    • Office 2010 will write dozens of non-interoperable, proprietary extensions into their OOXML documents, extensions which are not defined by the OOXML standards and which have not been reviewed or standardized by any standards committee and which will not be fully interoperable with other OOXML editors, or even with previous versions of MS Office.

    That and more from my 2009 blog post []

    Every one of these has come to pass. If the scales are falling from Alex's eyes, then great. But the rest of us saw this coming a long time ago. In fact, Microsoft told us at the SC34 meeting in Seattle last year that the "Strict" conformance class would not be supported until Office 16. Alex knows that. So it is odd that he is pretending that this is something unexpected.

    • Office 16? It's going to take that long? Well I suppose that's pretty much on par for Microsoft and supporting standards.... late.
  • Wow.... What a surprise. Just when I thought Microsoft was starting to get better. We really need to get away from these binary formats anyway... A LOT of security vulnerabilities come from binary formats.
    • by Arimus ( 198136 )

      Isn't OOXML, you know kind of, XML like rather than a binary standard???

    • by selven ( 1556643 )

      I agree that complex proprietary formats are a big problem, but can you define "binary formats" a little better? Everything except for stuff in a few experimental architectures (trinary, analog, etc) is stored in a binary form.

    • by raddan ( 519638 ) *
      Binary formats have little to do with it, except that it's much harder to figure out how they tick if you don't already know. Binary formats are very useful, when used appropriately-- for instance, nobody complains that TCP packets are binary format, because the format is well-known. They are much more compact than textual formats, and they can be much easier to parse. The problem is when they are used to keep out prying eyes, and I have no doubt that Microsoft often employs them to this effect. They su
  • Wait, what!!!? Microsoft is ignoring standards?! Noooo waaay!

    • The best part it's their own standard they're ignoring, not someone else's halfcocked 'standard' like CSS or XML.

      • The Strict variant isn't theirs; it's the ISO's work. The Transitional variant however is pretty much the ECMA spec once the ISO modifies it back into compliance with ECMA. Of course, the ECMA spec is pretty much the Office 2007 format.
        • But it was Microsoft doing all the pressuring to get it adopted. So even if they weren't the writer or director, they took producer credit (and that's the credit that ends up with the Best Picture statue).

  • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:10PM (#31707170) Journal

    even if you were born 2500 years ago: []

    The Scorpion and the Frog

    A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion says, "Because if I do, I will die too."

    The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp "Why?"

    Replies the scorpion: "Its my nature..." []

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Except in this case, the scorpion is stinging the frog before even getting into the water.

    • by Locutus ( 9039 )
      except in this case, the "frog" is so clueless that he doesn't even know the scorpion is a scorpion. The truth unravels with the "frog" being completely surprised to find out he's not only been stung, but that they shinny object he trusted was in fact a scorpion who has done this hundreds of times before. Poor stupid "frog". And BTW, our governments are full of such "frogs" and also most of corporate management. Microsoft can hitch rides, and has, for a very long time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by camperdave ( 969942 )
      What's next? The Angry Warrior Speech []?
  • by GNUALMAFUERTE ( 697061 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <etreufamla>> on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:13PM (#31707214)

    Many previous posts said it was unrealistic to expect microsoft to implement proper support in Office 2010. I think what is unrealistic is expecting microsoft to implement any kind of standards.

    The only time they will implement anything that is standards compliant is when they have no choice. Think about IE. It took 15 years to get them to implement standards in IE (In IE9) and they only did so because Mozilla, Apple, Opera and Google forced them. Only after they lost significant marketshare against this companies that they implemented HTML5. And, remember, embrace, extend, extinguish. IE9 is only phase1 (Embrace). In a year or so, we'll see IE9 marketshare grow, and the proprietary extensions will start rolling. In a few years, It'll be 2001 all over again. IE15 will be as incompatible as IE6 was.

    This is microsoft. That's what they do. They won't change. They are the most hostile company I've ever seen. They blatantly attack the rest of the industry, and as long as people put up with it and buy their products, they have no reason to change their tactics. They've worked well for them for almost 3 decades.

    • by Mongoose Disciple ( 722373 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:24PM (#31707322)

      What's especially interesting is that if Microsoft hadn't stopped working on IE for years, probably there would be no market reason for them to do anything involving web standards today.

      You can't legitimately bash IE6 for being incompatible, though -- in its day, it had so much of the browser market (largely by default) that whatever IE6 did was the standard for anyone with a pragmatic bone in their body.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        You have no understanding of the browser wars.

        Here: []

        • Uh... the article you're referencing has a diagram showing that IE had over 80% of the market for about 7 years and around 90% for several of them. During those years when Netscape had pretty much died and Firefox wasn't going (or later, gaining traction yet), IE was, from a pragmatic web developer's standpoint, the standard.

          I'm not sure what in this article you think refutes anything I said.

          • What you are missing is WHY ie was the "only" choice back then:

            It was because it had already destroyed all the other alternatives.

        • Care to offer a refutation? Seriously. That doesnt say what you think it says.

          Somehow you think that Explorer beating the crap out of Netscape, fairly or unfairly, negates the fact that Netscape was even worse at standards.

          Educate yourself, because you obviously werent paying attention back then. Those were the days when proprietary extensions were king, be it blinking text, scrolling text, and all the other crud. Back then, sites had to explain which browser they were developed for so people knew whic
          • Dude, libwww was written by Berners-lee in 1992. It was used by all browsers at the time. When Netscape came into the market, it was standards compliant and compatible with libwww. After the hoards of windows and AOL users started to use the web with their explorers and their netscapes, the whole web was libwww, which was standards compliant, free and multiplatform.

            After IE broke every single standard, and added every single proprietary extension imaginable, causing 50% of the web to be incompatible with Ne

            • You're entitled to your opinion, but it doesn't agree with how I remember things to have actually occured.

              Shit, it took years for IE to even catch up with what Netscape could do, and you're crazy if you think everything Netscape could do at that point followed any kind of web standard other than the "this is the most popular browser, so what it does is the standard" standard.

              I'm not all that sure even Mosaic was all that standards compliant.

              • It's not about what you think. It's about what it is. When Netscape came into existence, libwww was everything. And they had to comply. You are not sure Mosaic was compliant? Mosaic was nothing but a framework over libwww, just as lynx and others. libwww was the rendering engine, and it was written BY Berners-Lee, Off course it was standards compliant.

    • by slack_justyb ( 862874 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:50PM (#31707598)
      It makes you wonder about all those promises that Microsoft has made to GNOME, Mono, and Linux to not sue. I don't buy any olive branch that Microsoft bares. Microsoft is evil, they will do everything to make it look like they want standards and interoperability, and then do everything in their power to make their product the only product. Seriously, anybody who believes any offer of friendship from MS is seriously gullible.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        It makes you wonder about all those promises that Microsoft has made to GNOME, Mono, and Linux to not sue. I don't buy any olive branch that Microsoft bares. Microsoft is evil, they will do everything to make it look like they want standards and interoperability, and then do everything in their power to make their product the only product. Seriously, anybody who believes any offer of friendship from MS is seriously gullible.

        Agreed. I'm deeply worried about the future of Gnome. Specially since they had that stupid fight with the FSF. I spoke with Richard about it, and told him that it was important to keep Gnome close, since it was in danger. Here's what he had to say: (This is an extract from a very long email exchange)

        Lots of fellow hackers and developers condemn the ideals of free
        software. That has been true for 20 years or more. I wish
        everyone agreed with the free software movement, but they don't.
        We can't convert them. We can refuse to let them convert us.

        We must, above all, refuse to be a coward like Obama who will make
        whatever concession is necessary to avoid the appearance of short-term
        defeat. That road leads to total failure.

        So, we are between the FSF (Who, at the time, is more important than ever, but still acts like a zealot and drives people away) and Microsoft (That, as usual, acts like your average pedophile, lurking in kids

        • by raddan ( 519638 ) *
          Given that the .NET CLR and C# are ECMA standards, can that be used as a defense against a Microsoft patent threat? I know that other standards bodies don't care about parents (just look at the IETF and Cisco), but I thought that ECMA and ISO at least nominally wanted submissions to be patent-unencumbered.

          That snippet from Stallman is disturbing. It's almost like he's completely forgotten why Free Software is actually appealing to people.
          • All of that is under a RAND agreement. Which means that if Microsoft does not like what Mono is doing they can require that Mono pay a fee for the implementation of the ECMA standard.
            So, long as they charge the same amount, or give the same terms to anyone else who is working on an implementation of .NET, which is no one else but Mono, MS is within their rights under the RAND.
            Ideally; standards can have no patents, have a RAND to ensure equal fees across the board, or have patented tech and then the co
      • That would put Alex Brown right up there with Miguel de Icaza. Now they are both Microsoft Developer Tools.
  • Fool me... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:13PM (#31707220)

    Fool me 48 times, shame on you, fool me the 49th... Shit! You did it again!

    But you won't fool me 50 times. I'm sure you wouldn't do that.

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:16PM (#31707260)

    The requirements need to be set by purchasing and strictly followed.

    Buy only Software that meets OOXML-Strict or OpenDocument. If no supplier is able to meet OOXML-Strict then no purchases will be made.

  • by owlstead ( 636356 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:21PM (#31707292)

    For each and every project that specified that a standardized format should be used, they can now be hold liable. Lets hope that they get sued to bits over it. I'm not holding my breath though, the EU seems to have some random rights and wrongs they pursue.

  • by eddy ( 18759 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:24PM (#31707312) Homepage Journal

    Is this person for real?

    And if we look elsewhere within Microsoft we can see - for example from their engagement with HTML 5 and work on MSIE - that they can move in the right direction when the will is there.

    So why - given the awareness Microsoft has at the top, at the bottom, and round the edges - does it still manage to behave as it does? Something, perhaps, is wrong at the centre -- some kind of corporate dysfunction caused by a failure of executive oversight.

    Yes, what really is the difference between 'office app space' and 'internet browser space'? Let's not forget Microsoft's swift rush to Internet standard conformance! They were like frolicing collies running over the meadows, busy herding eager to please!

  • I'm glad that Alex Brown talked to the responsible Microsoft Program Manager for comment rather than basing his article solely on a pre-release version of Office that is many months old.

  • by Qubit ( 100461 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:27PM (#31707360) Homepage Journal

    The article says

    Microsoft employs many eminent and standards-aware people of unimpeachable record – they also obviously “get it”

    Actually, Microsoft employs many people who were previously of unimpeachable record. When these obviously intelligent and "eminent" persons get in bed with Microsoft and then don't cry foul at the first, second, third, or fourth time that Microsoft willfully and intentionally manipulates standards bodies, then how can we possibly consider their record anything but stained?

    I know several people who work for Microsoft, and while I am happy that these friends still have work, especially in this time of massive layoffs, I wish that they had an opportunity to apply their skills at a company not so unbelievably hostile to standards groups.

  • by killmenow ( 184444 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @12:31PM (#31707412)
    Go ahead. Tell me "I told you so" if you must. But I, for one, am SHOCKED. Utterly and stupefyingly shocked and dismayed by this move from the new kinder, gentler Microsoft. I refuse to believe this is on purpose. They turned over a new leaf and this can ONLY be described as a minor mistake, a hiccup, a bump on the road to reform, so to speak.

    Microsoft is just kind of like my wife. She promised me after I found out about her cheating on me all those times that she'd stop. She's turned over a new leaf. She never MEANT to hurt me. And she's really trying to mend her ways but it's hard to change all those years of learned behavior, you know. It's not her fault she has needs I can't fulfill. And she loves me, I know she does. She says so every time I text her to ask her where she is. So I know it's true. And when she comes home smelling of some other man's junk I know it was just an accident. She would never intentionally take advantage of my naivete after all these years I've been with her. And neither would Microsoft.

    Right? ... Guys?
  • I stopped reading when I got to this nugget - "It is also a worrying commentary on the standards-savvyness of the Office developers that the first amateur attempts of part-time outsiders find problems with documents which Redmond's internal QA processes have missed." Is the author really this naive? If so, how did this guy become involved in the process in the first place?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by simpz ( 978228 )

      I was just thinking he must be the world's naivest man!

      After Internet Explorer lock in, closed network protocols (SMB, AD, Exchange, SMB2, Kerberos) , private API's only MS apps can use, Sharepoint only working well on IE, patent trolling on FAT etc etc
      he can't believe a convicted monopolist wouldn't subvert the hallowed ISO standards process for profit.

      Wow, either naive or just thinks MS critics must be motivated by bitterness and jealousy, 20 minutes of googling and a little bit of insight (and not just b

  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @01:27PM (#31708012)
    Doesn't anybody appreciate the delicious irony of TFA's URL: ""?
    • Irony fail. What does ASP.NET have to do with any standards?
  • They are just afraid that someone with a submarine patent is going to sue them if they use it. They are probably right.
  • Disagreement (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @01:56PM (#31708334) Homepage

    I have to disagree with Alex. Not with his summary of what happened, but with his conclusions. The OOXML standards project hasn't failed, and isn't heading for failure. It's been wildly successful. Remember that Microsoft's goal with it wasn't to produce a standard document format. It was to get an ISO standard passed with OOXML in the name so Microsoft could provide the correct tick-list item to sell to governments, while still keeping MS Office using a format that only Microsoft could reliably read and write. In fact, a document format that conformed strictly to a published standard that was completely and correctly specified was for MS an explicit non-goal, something to be kept from happening.

    And if Alex expected anything else from Microsoft, I have to think he's deluded. There's nothing in Microsoft's history to suggest they'd do otherwise if they have any alternative open to them.

  • by EMB Numbers ( 934125 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @02:26PM (#31708636)

    Microsoft worked with industry partners and standards organizations to create the RTF standard for document interchange. The first version of Word that could save RTF saved a badly broken non-standard version of RTF. WordPerfect and other competitors who tried to implement the standard for document import were screwed because they couldn't faithfully import MS Word documents. Users blamed WordPerfect.

    Who knows whether MSWord's buggy RTF export was deliberate or merely incompetent. The point is that history once again repeats itself.

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  • Ironically (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Friday April 02, 2010 @03:55PM (#31709394)
    Office produces 100% compliant ODF files that Open Office can't properly handle.
  • Since our company has a requirement for Open Standard file formats we can still forbid MS. When Microsoft apologists whine "but it's OOXML, that's an ISO standard" we can reply "sorry, it isn't standard OOXML".

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake