Sunday, August 19, 2007

Microsoft rejects SVG (and more)

The following paper is another analysis of the Microsoft OOXML format and it asks a valid question:

Microsoft and Open Standards: Can Other Vendors Implement Microsoft's Office Open XML?

I doubt you will be too surprised to hear that the answer is: at best, not without risk.

In this paper I read that OOXML is not only attacking ODF, it is also attacking the SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) standard. I am sure that the standards committee responsible for SVG would welcome the input of Microsoft, if they have anything constructive to say. The same for the ODF committee. As has been reported many times by others, there is no record of any suggestions by Microsoft being rejected by the original Oasis committee (the one that created ODF) while Microsoft were part of that committee (and I rather suspect that Microsoft were only on that committee in the first place to slow it down).

Nobody is saying that ODF is perfect. For example, you can read here that the way that SVG gets used in ODF is not perfect. But at least the ODF people are *trying* to use existing open standards rather than continually inventing new formats. One of the reasons ODF is "only" 760 pages long is that it makes reference to many external standards such as SVG. The Microsoft format is 6000+ pages long because it re-invents so many wheels and because it includes many quirks which accommodate the foibles of legacy Microsoft software (e.g. "lineWrapLikeWord6"). How in any sane world can things like "lineWrapLikeWord6" form part of an open standard?

SVG is not standing alone in the cross-hairs of OOXML. Another example is the ISO 8601 standard for dates, which Microsoft actually used for a while (Office 2000) and then moved away from (to enhance interoperability perhaps?). The Microsoft OOXML format looks like an attempt to smother lots of open standards in one go. If the Microsoft format is fast tracked, so are the Microsoft devised component formats.

If only Microsoft put this much energy into writing good standards-compliant software.

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