FFII opposes Fasttrack adoption of Microsoft OOXML format as ISO standard

Brussels, 29 January 2007 — The FFII has sent an open letter to all delegations of the International Standardization Organization (ISO) to oppose with contradictions the “fast track” adoption of the Microsoft’s 6000-page OOXML specification (ECMA-376) before the deadline of February, 5th. Microsoft’s proposal damages the adoption of the existing ISO 26300 standard (OpenDocument) that covers almost the same functionality in just 600 pages.

The FFII has several concerns with the proposed standard. OpenXML relies on undisclosed patents, and undisclosed or incomplete licensing terms that make any independent reimplementation impossible or heavily risky. It obliges implementors to reverse-engineer the behavior of old closed Microsoft applications and formats. It uses non-standard formats for languages and dates, and specifies known bugs, such as treating 1900 as a leap year.

Benjamin Henrion, FFII analyst, explains: “Microsoft is pushing through a overcomplex proposal in a very short time frame. The fast-track procedure was never intended for specifications of this size and artificial complexity. It seems clear that the pressure is on ISO to not look too closely at the many traps in OOXML, which include patent minefields that will allow Microsoft to strictly control who implements this. Microsoft tried to introduce its patents into international standards before, resulting in the failure of an anti-spam standard.”

Multiple associations, companies and bloggers who have looked at OOXML describe it as a “single vendor standard”, since large parts of the standard simply refer to application behavior, not technical specifications. Examples include the option to enable “WordPerfect text alignment”.

OOXML was produced in one year by Microsoft alone and ratified as ECMA-376 by ECMA, a private association that drafts standards on demand. It is via ECMA that Microsoft has been able to push for a fast-track procedure at ISO/IEC. By comparison, the Open Document Format ISO standard took 5 years of work through ISO/IEC and OASIS and counts with multiple implementation covering all the main platforms (Symbian, Windows, Linux, Mac OS, BSDs and Solaris). In contrast, Microsoft’s format has no any implementation in market currently, and in medium terms it is expected to cover only the Microsoft platform.

Alberto Barrionuevo, FFII Vice-President, concludes: “We ask all ISO delegations to cancel the fast-track procedure. It is simply impossible to clarify all the issues and contradictions existing in ECMA-376 within such a short fast-track time frame. Indeed, this standards-stuffing attempt undermines the entire credibility of the ISO/IEC process. If Microsoft can buy a single-vendor ‘standard’ with impunity, what is ISO for?”


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About FFII

The FFII is a not-for-profit association, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 1,000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights in data processing.

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