Voting on DIS 29500

The voting has closed on the Open XML ballot, and ISO has issued a press release that explains the outcome:

The five-month ballot process ended on 2 September and was open to the IEC and ISO national member bodies from 104 countries, including 41 that are participating members of the joint ISO/IEC technical committee, JTC 1, Information technology.

Approval requires at least 2/3 (i.e. 66.66 %) of the votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 to be positive; and no more than 1/4 (i.e. 25 %) of the total number of national body votes cast negative. Neither of these criteria were achieved, with 53 % of votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 being positive and 26 % of national votes cast being negative.

Comments that accompanied the votes will be discussed at a ballot resolution meeting (BRM) to be organized by the relevant subcommittee of ISO/IEC JTC 1 (SC 34, Document description and processing languages) in February 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The objective of the meeting will be to review and seek consensus on possible modifications to the document in light of the comments received along with the votes. If the proposed modifications are such that national bodies then wish to withdraw their negative votes, and the above acceptance criteria are then met, the standard may proceed to publication.

As Jason Matusow says today, "The next 6 months will be where the rubber really meets the road for the work on Open XML."

[Addition: Stephen McGibbon has some interesting charts that show the balloting results in visual form, and also a set of charts comparing the Open XML and ODF ballots.]

Comments (15)
  1. rsandu says:

    Oh, Dough, we are SOOOO sorry !

    Is there any bank account where we can depose money to ease your boss’ sadness ? Please let s know…

  2. Doug Mahugh says:

    Răzvan, it’s "Doug" — no H!  Well, unless you’re using my new nickname "Hug."

  3. Michael says:

    Hello Doug,

    It would be nice if you would represent the facts right and remove the Approve with comments from the nice chart you have. As you are probably aware Approve with comments isn’t a valid ISO vote. If there are comments a member is supposed to vote No with comments.

    And it would certainly be nice if all you OOXML backers would give your opinion on the obvious flaws of the OOXML file format. As you can guess I back the ODF standard (and in my opinion there should only be one standard for a single purpose), but I could support OOXML if it weren’t filled with flaws like it is right now.

    If you can’t find list of OOXML flaws, try here:–files/arguments/ODF-vs-OOXML-v1.2.pdf

    Unless I ignore the well known MS tactic of "screw it to make it yours", I still can’t get it why MS had to create a standard of their own instead of just improving the already existing ODF standard.

  4. Doug Mahugh says:

    Michael, the facts remain correct: those countries did indeed vote "Approve with comments" on both ODF and Open XML, as allowed in the JTC 1 directives.  If you’re getting your facts from noooxml instead of JTC 1, that may explain the confusion.

    Yes, there are flaws in the spec, and those are now being addressed by Ecma as part of the ballot resolution process.  But again, I think you’ll find it less confusing to follow the actual comments submitted, rather than letting noooxml tell you what matters.  The BRM process does not include any provision for noooxml’s opinion.

  5. Michael says:


    In many countries the voters were told that "Yes with comments" or "Abstain with comments" would get the comments looked into. Which is not true.

    For example, Dr. Alain Empain was told in the Belgium meeting that "Abstain with comments" would get the comments addressed, obviously false.

    You’re correct when you say that "Approve with comments" is a correct vote. I didn’t explain my point accurately, my apologies for that.

    I don’t just spit out what throws at me and I’m certainly not confused by their news reports. But I don’t think you can continue to ignore the fact that you  can’t or want to address the many grave errors and flaws in the OOXML specification or even mention the fact that MS has influenced the voting process in a way that can’t be sweettalked.

    If you look at it in an objective manner, you’ll see that with the current amount of flaws the OOXML specification can’t be implemented by any one (research done here: and not even MS Office 2007 provides an accurate implementation of the specification.

    The OOXML specification isn’t just ready to be considered an open standard let alone an ISO standard. With this amount of comments (I’m not even considering the amount of actual flaws), there is no way that the BRM process could ever straighten this specification out. Back to the drawing board I’d say.

  6. Doug Mahugh says:


    I’m very interested in seeing errors in the spec corrected, actually.  A big part of my job (something I do even more than blogging about Open XML :-)) is teaching Open XML development.  Errors in the spec come up in those situations, such as when a sample doesn’t work as expected or an explanation isn’t clear or helpful.  I would like to see those errors corrected because they interfere with the learning process.

    As for whether the magnitude of comments we’re seeing can be effectively addressed in the BRM process, we’ll have to wait and see, but I’m very optimistic.

  7. hAl says:

    [quote]In many countries the voters were told that "Yes with comments" or "Abstain with comments" would get the comments looked into. Which is not true.[/quote]

    You have anything to back that up ? Ecma already promised to look at all comments. And why wouldn’t they. If an approval voter contributes a comment than it probably is someone with a genuine interest in seeign a succesfull outcome.

    During Opendocument standardization trough ISO OASIs also looked in the comments that were given with approval votes and made changes accordingly. So solving comments with approval vote is a normal procedure in ISO standardization.

  8. Stephen says:

    Michael, I see your claiming that "The fasttrack procedure for OOXML has been canceled!" on your blog. This is as incorrect as your assertion that "Yes with comments" isn’t allowed – did you know that *all* of the comments submitted in the ODF ballot were sent this way?

    The truth is out there Michael but you need to open your eyes[;)]

  9. As you might expect, there’s been a bit of discussion on the internal aliases about the results of ISO

  10. Michael says:

    Stephen, While it is still possible that the fasttrack procedure will start, I think it’s doubtful with the amount of comments that have been raised. I don’ think that anyone can deny that there is no way that a BRM can satisfy all comments that have been raised with the specification.

    Yes, ODF comments were addressed in a BRM, but there weren’t as many as there are now. I’ll have a new article at my blog comparing the comments that needed to be addressed at the ODF BRM and the ones that need to be addressed for OOXML.

  11. Stephen says:

    Sorry Michael but I don’t think you’re keeping up too well here.

    >Yes, ODF comments were addressed in a BRM, but there weren’t as many as there are now

    Erm, no they weren’t.

    >but there weren’t as many as there are now

    Well there’s lots of duplication courtesy of IBM and friends, but I think that’s actually going to be helpful rather than a hindrance.

    Why? Well when the comments are de-duped and we get to a unique set I don’t think there will be that many, but the huge amount of duplication will give some indication to the concensus on how to deal with the boilerplate set that IBM produced, which may make consensus finding much easier at the BRM.

  12. Michael says:


    Do you have any indication that there’s that much duplication of the comments? I can imagine that some members filed duplicates, but that doesn’t change anything that the spec has serious flaws. A point that no one here has wanted to talk about.

    The fact alone that MS implemented their own fileformat for drawings instead of using an existing ISO spec for example. Result of this tactic: No one but MS can successfully implement OOXML.

    I think it’s very easy to keep complaining about ‘IBM and friends’, true they do their best to keep OOXML from becoming an ISO standard. But why should it when it’s a seriously flawed standard?

    Let MS and the ECMA fix, really fix OOXML, no proprietary stuff, no ‘covenant not to sue’, make it really free and open, use existing standards and I think that you’ll see that ‘IBM and friends’ will accept the fact that MS created a good open standard.

  13. Michael says:

    Michael OpenXML *is* a good open standard. No standard is perfect, and I am sure Ecma will use the feedback to improve what will become IS29500.

    But your assertions are just plain factually incorrect, so it’s hard to discuss meaningfully.

    Take your comment that "No one but MS can successfully implement OOXML" because of VML. Do you really believe that? Have you tried or are you just repeating the cool stuff the bigger kids say?

  14. Richard says:

    @Stephen (,

    The previous comment seems to be yours,  but it has the name Michael on it!!  

    Can I make ask you something?

    We already have an open standard for documents (ODF).  With this it seems to be possible for any vendor to create documents that any other vendor can read, so ISVs (or MS) can write apps that can read and write ODF with confidence.

    My question is, with OOXML do you think this is equally possible?  

    I think it would be possible to write OOXML easily enough.  However, considering that OOXML specification has 6,000 pages (vs 700 for ODF), what are the chances I’d be able write an app to reliably read a document created by someone else using OOXML???  I tried to find where Michael mentioned VML but can’t see it.  However it’s not just becauase of VML that the job of reading someone else’s OOXML would be very difficult,  but also because of the tags that specify that rendering must be compatible with old versions of MS office.  How could I possibly write an app that has to ‘know’ how to render some elements based on compatibility with some previous closed source MS products??  

  15. Stephen says:


    >with OOXML do you think this is equally possible?  


    Take a look at Jody’s comments here ….

    >but also because of the tags that specify that rendering must be compatible with old versions of MS office

    erm, they don’t.

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