The Contradictory Nature of OOXML
January 21, 2007 Leave a comment
Andy Updegrove continues his excellent coverage of the OOXML standards approval process. From this post:
Regular readers will be aware that OOXML, the Microsoft Office XML-based formats adopted by Ecma, are now in the adoption queue at ISO/IEC. Ecma is a “Class A Liaison” partner with ISO/IEC, which permits it to use the same Fast Track process that national standards bodies use. That process takes six months – the same amount of time that the PAS process takes (the route used by OASIS to submit ODF to ISO/IEC) – but has two steps rather than one, although the practical result is much the same.
During the first one-month step, any member may submit “contradictions,” which, loosely defined, means aspects in which a proposed standard conflicts with already adopted ISO/IEC standards and Directives. Those contradictions must then be “resolved” (which does not necessarily mean eliminated), and these resolutions are then presented back to the members during the second stage to consider as part of the voting package. During this second, five-month step, other objections, questions and comments can be offered by members. (For more detail on the rules relating to contradictions and what can be raised during this phase, see the excellent writeup at the OpenDocument Fellowship site.)
While the unprecedented size of OOXML (over 6,000 pages) has made performing a detailed review a daunting task, more and more contradictions are being found by those that are slogging their way through on this very tight timeframe. Here is a sampling of those that people have brought to my attention:
He goes on to detail some of the upcoming contradictions that will be submitted. You should read the full post, but they include items such as reliance on the Windows platform, necessitating the implementation of undocumented Word bugs and reliance on documentation not included in the 6,000+ page draft. In the end, I very much agree with this statement: Other contradictions would seem to be impossible to resolve given the nature of OOXML itself, the stated purpose of which is to describe a single vendor's product – bugs, rats and all. The format is not a community developed standard that is meant to describe an office document format, it's basically “how MS Office works”… including bugs… without some needed information. That's not a problem for Microsoft given that their implementation is already done. It seems doubtful that even Microsoft given this document could write a fully compliant application. That means no one else even stands a chance. If this is passed, Microsoft will be able to keep Government contracts (which are increasing requiring an Open and standard document format) and also get good PR. All the while the standard almost certainly won't be implemented fully by any other product. Not exactly how standards are supposed to work.
Microsoft, OOXML, MSFT, Open Source, ODF