A blog for the enterprise open source community
Format confusion unfortunateJay Lyman, November 6, 2007 @ 12:49 pm ET
I was disappointed when the Open Document Format (ODF) suffered a significant setback with the Massachussetts defeat in July. However, I was encouraged again recently as ODF continued to gain support, both in use and backers. We just got a report on a variety of vendors and products incorporating the format. The open standard’s international acceptance has also continued in places such as South Africa and Germany, highlighting ongoing momentum.
Then came recent word that the OpenDocument Foundation, the group named for and dedicated to an open, universal format, was shifting its support for ODF and transferring its endorsement to the W3C Compound Document Format (CDF). Beyond the OpenDocument Foundation having to change all of their references and materials based on ODF (and maybe a new name?), I’m afraid this move contributes to confusion in the market.
Sam Hiser lays out the reasoning for the shift clearly and eloquently: because of resistence to openness and interoperability by some other ODF backers, the foundation sees more promise and openness in the W3C’s CDF. Hiser, a rightfully respected authority on open software and formats, also makes sense in his stance that the move is not intended to help Microsoft at the expense of ODF or any other format.
But I think there is no question that the ODF not supporting ODF and instead supporting CDF is cause for confusion. We all know who is most likely to benefit from confusion: Microsoft with its Office Open XML (OOXML), free of confusion and open on Microsoft’s terms. Obviously, Hiser and the other Foundation members who are pulling their support for ODF felt they could not work with other ODF backers to address their concerns. That’s a shame.
However, there is still great promise for ODF. There is still ongoing momentum for the format and the possibility that the loss of Foundation support will spur other ODF backers to improve interoperability, even with Microsoft. After all, it is the inability of Microsoft’s formats and standards to interoperate with other software or even other versions of Microsoft software that created much of the desire and demand for an alternative. I see addressing that interoperability as a key to the success of ODF, whether or not it has the OpenDocument Foundation’s support.
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