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OOXML vs ODF: A Letter to the Gnome Foundation

OpenDocument Fellowship member Russell Ossendryver writes an Open Letter

OpenDocument Fellowship member Russell Ossendryver has written an Open Letter to the Gnome Foundation enjoining it to halt its apparent support for Microsoft's OOXML as a standard and to put its efforts behind enhancing adoption of the genuinely open standard, the OpenDocument Format (ODF), which was approved by the world standards bodies as ISO/IEC standard 26300 on 2 May 2006.

The full text of the letter, posted yesterday, was as follows:

"A Letter to the Gnome Foundation

It appears that the Gnome Foundation is participating in ECMA TC 451 regarding resolving comments and contradictions for DIS 29500. Given the technical shortcomings in the specification and the disregard for process that the backers of DIS 29500 have displayed during the process, Gnome’s participation in this activity is to the detriment of interoperability among office suits.

Efforts should be made to support the International Organization for Standards (ISO) policy of “one standard, one test, accepted everywhere.” Gnome can do this by promoting support for ISO/IEC 26300. Once the standard is implemented and in use, then add extras can be added, either import-only, or read-write. But, if different suites support unfinished specifications while failing to support the standard, then there is no interoperability.

Having Gnome team members promoting the agenda of its main opponent, however, is not only counter-productive but also reflects negatively on the project and its credibility.  GNOME is supporting its main  opponent by explicitly participating in the official Ecma / ISO process; by participating informally at the conferences; and, presumably, by participating inside of actual development. It seems that Gnome is becoming Microsoft’s  catspaw to damage and slow down open source and open standards.

Along those lines, it would be important for Gnome to present a respectable public image in regards to standards and to be sure that Gnome team members are able to back ISO’s position rather than ISO’s opponent. Individuals may wish to work against open standards, and they are free to do so, but Gnome as a project should distance itself and emphasized that such activities not be done under the auspices of Gnome nor in their role in the project.

For example, one high profile team member can cause a lot of trouble for Gnome, especially when promoting proprietary technologies in opposition to open source and open standards. Quotes like, “Time to play with C#, ASP.NET and some nifty toys (you can make almost Windows feel like Linux now)” seem to be promoting themes advanced by bloggers at Gnome’s (and open standards’) main antagonist, Microsoft.

A good illustration of pragmatic reasons for standards has been provided in a presentation by David Wheeler, linked below. In sum, Wheeler makes a compelling case that open standards save time and effort.

http://www.dwheeler.com/essays/open-standards-security.pdf
http://www.dwheeler.com/essays/open-standards-security.odp
http://www.dwheeler.com/multimedia/open-standards-security.ogg

It is time to unite the community behind the standard, universal format for office suites and distance themselves from Ecma TC45 and DIS 29500. The participation of Gnome in Ecma TC45’s apparent subversion of the standards process is a major disservice to FOSS and all in the community who have worked so hard for open platforms and open standards.

Russell [Ossendryver]"



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