Support Open Formats

Much like the current campaigns for presidential nominees in the United States, I’m somewhat tired of hearing about this subject. It is old and tired, and an uphill battle that feels as if it will never end. Formats like Microsoft’s Open Office XML (OOXML) are simply bad, cludgy, poorly designed… and in the case of OOXML, Microsoft’s own products, namely their Office 2007 suite, don’t or can’t implement the spec correctly.

What’s frustrating is that Microsoft has the money and the power granted through monopoly to make all of that irrelevant. NoOOXML.org has eight top-notch reasons why OOXML should be struck down, but the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) board approved the format anyways.

The bottom line is that governments should not encode, encrypt, archive, present, or distribute public documents in a proprietary format. Microsoft holds all the strings on their formats, and at any point they could pull the plug and say that no program(s) but their own can open their formats. It would be illegal for anything other than a Microsoft program to open a Microsoft document. And then, should Microsoft go bankrupt and stop producing their software… and if their software then becomes so out-of-date it can no longer run on modern computers…

No empire lasts forever, folks, so by using Microsoft’s formats, we’re handing our documents to a company that will fade away and take our archives and records with them.

The solution is to use open standards, such as the Open Document Format (ODF), which was approved by ISO in 2006 and is full-implementable, open source, and actually works as its spec claims it should. The ISO’s decision on OOXML is being appealed by a number of countries around the world who are unwilling to be bought off and would rather we have a proper, standardized format. If we cannot rely on a supposedly independent, unbiased body to produce standards, intercommunication between regions will become impossible. Without standards, we will eventually degenerate into Babel.

I urge you to sign both the petition above on NoOOXML’s site as well as the Hague Declaration’s petition. A part of me recognizes what most of us already know: that online petitions are pretty much worthless. But I still feel that it is important to put my name out there and to have something I can point at to say, “That’s what I support.” When I write to my congress-people, I can point at these documents and say, “This is what I want you to do.”

Educate yourselves about the issue, and speak accordingly.

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