Dispersing some FUD on ODF
By webmink on Mar 06, 2006
I've heard some people saying crazy stuff about OpenDocument over the last few days (naming no names, at least for now) since we all launched the ODF Alliance. Here's some samples.
- The ODF Alliance is just Sun, IBM and their friends.
- That's a whole lot of friends. On launch day there were 35 (including well-known Sun supporters Novell, Red Hat, Corel, EMC and EDS, plus the Technical University of Denmark, Indian Institute of Technology and a load more) and I gather sign-ups are happening faster than SIIA can cope. No, ODF Alliance is actually a groundswell of support for a once-for-all solution to all the problems that monopoly control of document formats causes. We all know we're at a point of change, with genuine choice, and if the current dominant supplier wants to stay dominant they'd better hear us all and instead of patronising put-downs give us what we want, the way we want it.
- The ODF Alliance want to push ODF as an exclusive standard to the detriment of all others vs. enabling choice among formats such as PDF from Adobe, Open XML, HTML and others.
- No. The ODF Alliance wants to see one baseline standard for editable documents, just like we already have one baseline standard for web pages in HTML and one baseline standard for non-editable documents in PDF. Choice of whether to exchange editable or non-editable or web-viewable is good. Choice of how to do each of those is not good.
- Choice and competition is better than arbitrary technology preferences.
- Totally agree. Having a single baseline standard promotes competition and choice. It has done so in all sorts of industries and now it's the turn of desktop documents. But choice does not create competition if it's a choice of standards, as Blu-Ray and DVD-HD are about to prove. When there's a choice of standards, leverage of monopoly power is what solves the debate, to the detriment of the market.
- It's more important that we have XML and customers can customise it than that we have a single document standard
- That's certainly important to as much as 3% of users - look at the market share for SGML editors to see how many. But the other 97% of us would like to have the confidence that if we write something today on our Macs we'll be able to read it next year on desktop OpenSolaris (replace with your own preferred values!). That's only going to happen with a document format that is widely implemented on all platforms, like OpenDocument.
- Almost all documents use legacy MS Office binary formats. Compatibility is vital. Only Microsoft's new Office 12 XML format can do that
- Uhhhm - excuse me? Reading .DOC and it's undocumented siblings is an application function, painstakingly reverse engineered by the OpenOffice.org community and others over the years as Microsoft laughed. Once you've read the file, it can be saved into any format designed to preserve the document architecture - as OpenDocument explicitly was. The argument is a non sequiter.
- OpenDocument doesn't support all the snazzy new features we want to unnecessarily add to our next release of XXXX so we can't use it.
- But OpenDocument is an XML file format stored in a standard compressed file container. You can both add extra files to the container, and you can add extra XML to the individual files in the container. You can extend it to your heart's content, and yet all other programs that read OpenDocument will be at very least able to read it and probably to modify it. But you know this, of course, because Office 12 XML works exactly the same way.
- Microsoft couldn't join the OpenDocument project
- On the contrary, it's been conducted at OASIS, where Microsoft is on the Board of Directors and runs many WS-\* standards groups. Indeed, Microsoft staff even attended one or two meetings. In fact, former Microsoft employee Stephe Walli thinks they should have participated, but at the time their opinion was that the world didn't need a standard file format because we had .DOC - as Brian Jones of Microsoft admits, Massachusetts has made them change their mind, at least on that one.
The FUD machines can create clouds of FUD faster than I can disperse it, but that's a start at least!
Update: Indeed, here are lots of those arguments in action. The thing about ODF competing with HTML and PDF is truly stupid. Now, Microsoft is doing those things in Vista, so maybe it's a case of "attacking with their weaknesses".