Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 24th Nov 2007 23:31 UTC
Gnome "The GNOME Foundation has issued a statement in response to recent accusations that it has been supporting the acceptance of Microsoft's Office Open XML format as an ECMA standard at the expense of the Open Document Format, the open standard used by OpenOffice.org, KOffice and other free software office applications. However, whether the statement's attempt at logical rebuttal will do anything to reduce the emotions or altruism behind the criticisms is anybody's guess."
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lest we forget...
by karl on Sun 25th Nov 2007 11:51 UTC
karl
Member since:
2005-07-06

For years and years one of the most common complaints concerning Microsoft and its monopoly domination of the market is that this monopoly was held in place through the use of undocumented proprietary formats and protocols. Microsoft in its cynical wisdom actually decided to standardize(not fully open, or fully document) its latest format in response to ODF being endorsed by more and more organizations and institutions.

The fear of loss of this monopoly position drove Microsoft to engage in this standardization process-that Microsoft attempted to bribe and corrupt the standardization process itself shows that far from believing in the superiority of their own format, that they fear monopoly loss and are willing to whatever they deem necessary to maintain it.

However having committed themselves to this standardization process Microsoft began documenting their new format. Their documentation of this new format far exceeds what has been forthcoming from Microsoft in the past. Additionally via this process it became possible for other groups to participate in this process and pressure Microsoft for more information and documentation about the new format.

Jody siezed this oppurtunity to finally have access to documentation-something that he and every other developer of office-compatible software has been clamoring for for years on end. And when he left Novell, he asked for the GNOME foundation to carry on his work in securing documentation.

How many times have we heard the call for documentation? How many times has Microsoft been lambasted for not documenting their formats and using this to maintain their monopoly? Yet when software developers who need access to such documentation in order to provide features for those who use their software(how many times have I heard: "I can't/won't use OOo because it is not 100.00% capable of fully reading/writing/converting the DOC formated documents that I use/coworkers send me/boss requires of me" etc.) join the standards process in order to get access to such documentation they get attacked for supporting proprietary monopolies. Hello?. You can't have it both ways. What a load of hypocritical bs.

The #1 selling point for OOo is it's Microsoft compatibility. We may wish that OOo has some other feature that was it's primary selling point-but MS compatibility trumps all of it's other features-for users, of course for developers the Free software source code and documentation is the real value-but not for the millions of people who use office software in their daily work.

Moreover the we are left wonder what value this documentation really has: right now only one program can realistically offer full ODF compliance and that is OOo-koffice, gnumeric, abiword etc have extremely primitive support of OOo currently-and given the time already passed, better support is not exactly very likely. Now I read this to mean a) the ODF documentation is not sufficient to actually implement full ODF compliance, or b) the relationship between the representation of documents in the GUI of office software and the format for saving and retrieving such documents is much more constraining than we have been lead to believe by those clamoring for more documentation.

Documentation has been the utopic panacea for all problems- if we only had documentation all of our incompatibilities would magically disappear. Well having read the comments from those who have actually written office software the OOXML format from Microsoft is much more thoroughly documented than ODF- and if one takes into account how heavily analyzed this format was leading up to its exclusion from the rapid track ISO standardization(probably an additioal 30,000 pages resulted from this analysis) OOXML is probably by the best documented format in existance and this inspite of Microsofts bests attempts to obfuscate the format.

I too was irked at first when I read the blogs of Abiword developers and how they were so quick to dismiss the relevance of ODF-my reaction was simple- hey guys can't you see this wonderful oppurtunity to leave the days of incompatible formats behind-why don't you simply endorse and embrace ODF-yet the developers of Abiword(and probably gnumeric too) resented being expected to have 100.00% support for ODF which from their point of view offered little in the way of benefits for them-and an unending list of bugzilla complaints by people bitching at them for not properly rendering their OOo documents. Abiword for example was build around RTF, the steps involved to support DOC and OOXML are far easier to implement than that of ODF for those who actually write the software.

And whether we want to admit it or not we are creating impossible situations on all sides: 1) we want to end the MS document monopoly 2) we want ODF to become *the* standard document format(read monopoly, because what we do not want is choice(choice got us into this mess in the first place)-ok we want openness, ideally-but pragamatically which users really care?) ) 3) we demand that office software 100.00% fully support reading/writing/converting a document format which was not developed by those writing alternative office software(yeah and volunteer programmers from Abiword should front large sums of money(travel expenses, membership fees etc) to join in such organizations which created ODF 4) and we will hang such developers out to dry who do join the organization which is producing documentation for OOXML.

This whole situation is just surreal-and to top it off each and everybody is going around making truly grotesque personal attacks on developers who are doing our bidding, what gives?

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