Last spring, we saw some positive developments in the file format world. We started to reach a critical mass of tools that support open formats. There were millions of downloads of the compatibility pack which allowed existing Microsoft Office customer to get full support for Open XML for free. There was a lot of progress in the ODF <-> Open XML translator project which meant that MS Office users could open and save ODF files as well. On the other side you had builds of Open Office that allowed their customers to open and save in the Open XML format. And there was the start of a project at DIN (the German national standards body) where they were going to create a full report about translation between ODF and Open XML.
There were all big positive steps for the industry, and it caused me to make a claim that if there had been any type of “file format war”, it was certainly over (and both sides had won): http://blogs.msdn.com/brian_jones/archive/2007/03/02/openoffice-support-for-the-openxml-formats.aspx
Well, apparently IBM didn’t like that message. Even today they still believe they are in a war. A couple days ago I had a blog post where I voiced my surprise that IBM’s Rob Weir (head of the ODF technical committee), was attacking the ISO and Ecma for their discussions about setting up a plan for maintenance of the Open XML format after it’s adopted (assuming the National Bodies are happy with the proposed resolutions this spring). It was odd to me, because ODF is now a year removed from their ISO standardization, and they currently allow no involvement at all from ISO in the development of ODF. There are folks in ISO issuing reported errors in the ODF spec, and it’s not even clear how these will be dealt with: http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0942.htm
Lower in the comment section Rob and I had a discussion and I just asked Rob straight up why he wanted to continue this smear campaign:
“There is so much positive news right now and you’re trying to confuse people and not allow them to focus on those positives. Look at where we are now compared to where we were just 3 years ago. There are multiple open formats for people to choose from, and there are even open source translator projects that go between them all (ODF, Open XML, UOF, DAISY, HTML, etc.). I said back in the spring that the war was over, and I really had thought it was true. You guys just won’t let it stop though. If ODF is a better format, let it win for that reason. Don’t hold onto the ISO thing with such a jealous grasp that you block any other true progress from happening. Maybe if you spent as much time improving ODF and OpenFormula as you do trying to bring down Open XML you guys would actually have a final draft ready.
There are clearly a large number of people out there who want to see Open XML ratified by ISO, why do you want to stop that? Now you’re taking the approach you used of Ecma bashing to actually bashing the ISO and trying to bring everyone into OASIS (gee, that’s convenient).
We really aren’t going to make any progress with this mudslinging though. I’d much rather we talk about the actual technical issues and the advantages/disadvantages of the different approaches we’ve taken.”
And to it Rob Weir replied:
“Its called a “standards war”. Look it up. Whining about it won’t make it go away.”
It’s really a shame that it’s come to this. This approach is just harmful, to everyone. Again, I’d like to ask that this view of “war” stop, and instead focus on technology. We’re engineers, we’re supposed to build things, not tear them down (or maybe I’m just being super naïve).
Look at the propaganda he’s spouting on his own blog:
“But that scary part is that with even 1/3 of P-members, a number they clearly outright own, they can block anyone else’s standard. It probably hasn’t sunk into your realization yet,but Microsoft can essentially already erected toll bridge in ISO and demand payment or other concessions from anyone who wants to work with International Standards. If ISO rules get in the way, Microsoft can change them. If ISO administrators get in the way — no worry. With this number of NB’s Microsoft can control directives, staffing, paychecks, etc.
They’ve raised an army. You don’t think they will use it?”
That’s just crazy. Rob, which format floated through ISO with zero resistance? Yours!
Rob, which company has over 300,000 employees around the globe ready to be mobilized at a moment’s notice to block anything they don’t agree with? Yours!
Microsoft owns ISO and should be feared? If that’s the case someone should let us TC45 members know, because we’ve been busting our humps the past few months trying to come up with good resolutions to the National Body comments that came pouring in back in September. I can’t believe you feel comfortable throwing around crazy statements like this Rob… sounds like the type of propaganda you hear from someone looking to wage war. It needs to stop.