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"A document standards decision may not matter to you today, but as someone who relies on constant access to editable documents, spreadsheets and presentations, it may matter immensely in the near future."
So says a post this week on the Official Google blog.
- A renewed wish for open document standards, by Zaheda Bhorat, Google Open Source Programs Manager, Official Google Blog, Feb 25, 2008.
There is a battle going on over open document formats that can affect the long term accessibility of government information. The battle is being waged by Microsoft, which wants its OOXML format to be adopted as an international standard instead of the truly open ODF format.
This week Google weighed in on the issue and summed up the complex issues quite succinctly, noting that:
Google believes OOXML would be an insufficient and unnecessary standard, designed purely around the needs of Microsoft Office.
…We join the ODF Alliance and many other experts in our belief that OOXML doesn’t meet the criteria required for a globally-accepted standard.
Why? because OOXML attempts to make the functionality of Microsoft Office into the "standard." That would be bad because it elevates the importance of the software over the importance of the document. Of course, the question about whether or not the government should release information in the form of "editable documents" at all is another question, but since it does, the issue of open formats for editiable documents is an important one for government information.
A friend just alerted me to this call for responses regarding New York State’s official document standard for all state agencies. The more well-written responses that advocate for genuine open standards/formats the better. The State just extended the deadline to Jan 18th.
The main issue here is that Microsoft is attempting to have their fraud “OOXML” declared an Official New York State Standard for all state government documents stored on computers. OOXML is not a standard format. Indeed today, no software writes OOXML, and no software reads OOXML. OOXML has no published documentation, despite Microsoft’s claims. But even if, one day, some Microsoft software writes and reads files claimed to be in OOXML format, New York State should not accept any format controlled by a private interest. New York State should not force any format which, in practice, can only be manipulated by source secret software, on any resident.
The call for comments, which is a long two part document, gives evidence that Dr. Melodie Mayberry-Stewart will take seriously careful clear comments. I ask defeatists on our side to consider that Dr. Melodie Mayberry-Stewart refers to Groklaw in the Call for Comments.