OpenDocument Format. Everyone seems to love it. It is a guiding light in a heavily locked down world, in which it can secure the freedoms of document interoperability and prevent against the often unknown risks of vendor lock-in. With ODF, you can make the decision about what you do with your data by using an open and extensible document format that any software can implement. With the playing field levelled, you take control of your information. This is what freedom in software and freedom in document formats is all about.

And lets face it, we are all beginning to feel the ODF love. Not only is OpenOffice.org growing, but companies such as IBM and Sun have thrown their weight behind it, the ODF Alliance which represents over 210 organisations in 30 countries are behind it, and importantly, in May 2006 ODF became a ratified ECMA standard. So, ECMA determine a standard, and the world is a happy place right. Well, nearly.

It seems that Microsoft are working to “fast track” their OpenXML format to become a new European ISO/IEC standard. This standard has been submitted to ECMA, and the deadline is a bit tight to say the least. Graham Taylor from OpenForum Europe hits the nail on the head about the problem:

“There are major difficulties with ECMA’s standard, which if accepted will affect future formats of all documents on which all office and word processing software depends, and ultimately convenience and cost. It will reinforce the current supplier monopoly position, limit customer choice and increase costs for European business and consumers.”

I was under the impression that there could not be competing standards as part of ECMA, so this move is a little unusual. Not only that, but OpenXML proves to be a far more complex standard, weighing in at around 6000 pages – are Open Source applications authors really likely to inflict such eyeball glazing misery to implement such a ridiculously large standard?

So what do we do? Well, we have until 5th Feb 2007 to make complaints. Write to your local standards organisation, contact ECMA, blog about it or otherwise raise the issue that a 30 day fast track process is not exactly reasonable for a standard that weighs in at 6000 pages. We have worked so hard to make OpenDocument Format come as far as it has, lets not let it fall at the last hurdle.

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