ISO captured by vendor Microsoft

Brussels, 2 April 2008 — ISO members failed to disapprove the Open XML format. Microsoft has compromised the International Standards Organisation (ISO) during the rush to get a stamp for their Office OpenXML (OOXML), using unfair practices such as committee stuffing in several countries and political interventions of ministers in the standardization process.

A vote by national members of ISO indicates a majority for the controversial Open XML format. OOXML received 75 percent approval votes of P-members of JTC1, among them many nations of questionable expertise in standardization. In September a first attempt to approve the 6000 page standard Open XML failed with more than 2300 submitted comments. As in September many of the new approval votes were won by political high level intervention and the vendors dominance in national technical committees.

From June 2007 to March 2008, technical committees around the world studied and analysed one of the largest IT standards proposal ever, Microsoft’s OOXML. In order to get its format safely through ISO, Microsoft had to stuff committees, lobby ministers, mobilize business partners, and rewrite the ISO rules.

The rush for Open XML started with the adoption of OpenDocument format as the ISO standard for office documents (ISO 26300:2006). The open standard ODF is considered a danger for the market monopolist Microsoft with its flag ship product Microsoft Office. Governments worldwide are switching to the ISO standard OpenDocument Format (ODF) as their default format for office documents. ODF is a vendor neutral ISO open standard. The reaction of Microsoft to defend their monopoly position was to rush through their incompatible alternative format Open XML via ECMA international to become a second ISO standard. Although the Open XML format lacks maturity on formal grounds Microsoft has been able to hijack the entire ISO process. The technical review of the format was strongly obstructed by its originator and its political interference in the ISO process.

Presence of Microsoft Business Partners has been reported in the following countries: Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, Italy, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States of America. Furthermore, it has been reported in several countries, such as France and Malaysia, that Microsoft has lobbied the government and the responsible ministers to override the decisions of the technical committees, which spoke out against an approval of the format.

Jan Wildeboer, Solution Architect at RedHat, explains: “OOXML was created solely for use in Microsoft applications. It is not currently suitable as an international standard, because it cannot be completely implemented by anyone without access to inside information. Although it is more than 6,000 pages long, it contains various references to things that are defined only in Microsoft’s software, not in the specification itself.”

Rui Seabra, Vice-President of ANSOL and member of the technical committee in Portugal, says: “Congratulations are due to Microsoft. They’ve been able to push an incomplete and buggy document as an international standard, that only they can implement. It’s now proven that ISO/IEC standard of quality can be subverted.”

Laurent Richard, of the Belgian Association Electronique Libre, says: “The war about office file formats only begins. The real war will be the adoption of OOXML by governments, and their citizens, which will have to buy again a copy of Microsoft Office to find out what the decision makers are doing. We will ask the European Commission to scrutinize this format, and garantee that competitors can have 100% interoperability with the Microsoft Office, which is not possible with the current OOXML pseudo-standard.”

Pieter Hintjens, of the European Software Market Association, says: “Nobody wants standards you can buy. Microsoft bought a standard at ECMA, now they bought ISO. Who wants this?”

Graham Taylor, Openforum Europe, regards the outcome as a pyrrhic victory: “Microsoft will experience ever increasing and costly outspoken grass roots opposition across the world to vendor specific business models and related practices.”

Benjamin Henrion, initiator of the <NO>OOXML campaign, is furious about the tactics he followed over several months: “Committee stuffing is a standard practice for Microsoft. Microsoft raped ISO with their office file formats, leaving the organization in limbo. The whole campaign against the format have raised an army of people, which are furious about the dirty tactics used by Microsoft to get the broken standard through ISO. This anger won’t go away, and I wish good luck to Microsoft to get it adopted by governments. The reputation of Microsoft went down below zero with this process.”

Background information

Other irregularities has been collected here:


FFII Office Berlin
Malmöer Str. 6
D-10439 Berlin
Fon: +49-30-41722597
Fax Service: +49-721-509663769
Email: office (at)



The petition against the standardization of Microsoft OOXML broken format has gathered more then 87.000 signatures from all over the world. was started by Benjamin Henrion in January 2007 to campaign against Microsoft’s push for ISO standardization of their captive document formats. This campaign was part of a global project by the FFII’s open standards workgroup that reached standards campaigners in over eighty countries. was mainly supported by FFII, the Shuttleworth Foundation, the Open Society Institute, OpenForum Europe, FTISA, iMatix Corporation and ESOMA.

About FFII

The FFII is a not-for-profit association active in over thirty countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 850 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in publicy policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.

Comments are closed.