Defining "Open Standard", Simply

I was going to write a long piece about Microsoft's announcement that they are copying all the design points of the OASIS OpenDocument format and using it in the next version of Office, but I don't need to because Stephen O'Grady has. I asked a whole load of European Commission folk about it this week and no-one is fooled - they want a genuinely open standard, please.

An open standard is one which, when it changes, no-one is surprised by the changes. Admittedly I'm not surprised when Microsoft repeatedly and apparently arbitrarily changes its interfaces and formats and jerks developers around but I meant "not surprised" in the sense that the change process was open to involvement and contribution by all, not in that way. The OASIS process by which OpenDocument was defined is such a process and indeed Microsoft, being an OASIS member, did visit and could have easily steered the format to suit their legacy needs - the format is in fact vendor-neutral. Instead they chose to read the overview and then re-implement it. Jean Paoli's comment "Sun standardized their own. We could have used a format from others and shoehorned in functionality, but our design needs to be different" reeks of NIH and lock-in when you take that fact into account.

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