Adobe to release PDF to ISO
January 29, 2007 Leave a comment
It's clear that the benefits of Open Standards are starting to be realized in the mainstream. While the PDF spec has been available for a long time, Adobe is now going to submit it as an ISO standard. From the press release:
Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today announced that it intends to release the full Portable Document Format (PDF) 1.7 specification to AIIM, the Enterprise Content Management Association, for the purpose of publication by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
PDF has become a de facto global standard for more secure and dependable information exchange since Adobe published the complete PDF specification in 1993. Both government and private industry have come to rely on PDF for the volumes of electronic records that need to be more securely and reliably shared, managed, and in some cases preserved for generations. Since 1995 Adobe has participated in various working groups that develop technical specifications for publication by ISO and worked within the ISO process to deliver specialized subsets of PDF as standards for specific industries and functions. Today, PDF for Archive (PDF/A) and PDF for Exchange (PDF/X) are ISO standards, and PDF for Engineering (PDF/E) and PDF for Universal Access (PDF/UA) are proposed standards. Additionally, PDF for Healthcare (PDF/H) is an AIIM proposed Best Practice Guide. AIIM serves as the administrator for PDF/A, PDF/E, PDF/UA and PDF/H.
“Today’s announcement is the next logical step in the evolution of PDF from de facto standard to a formal, de jure standard,” said Kevin Lynch, senior vice president and chief software architect at Adobe. “By releasing the full PDF specification for ISO standardization, we are reinforcing our commitment to openness. As governments and organizations increasingly request open formats, maintenance of the PDF specification by an external and participatory organization will help continue to drive innovation and expand the rich PDF ecosystem that has evolved over the past 15 years.”
Some would argue this is coming a little late, but it's still good to see IMHO. Adobe is finally letting go of one of its crown jewels. While the spec has been previously available, licensing restraints mean we have a ton of free (gratis and libre) viewers but less writers. We should see more of a balance now (although some good libre writing options are already available).
Moving on to the impetus for this move. I think Adobe has a vision for the future of the web and it realizes the role Open Standards will play if they want to be a legitimate player in that future. More and more Government agencies are now requiring the document formats they use be standards based. The full PDF spec can now say that it is. You also have the fact that Microsoft is going to start pushing XPS, (XML Paper Specification, also called Metro) which is a direct PDF competitor. PDF being an ISO spec means that instead of Adobe being the perceived gatekeeper, anyone can propose additions/modifications. This means an ecosystem can build up. Of course, Adobe has a ton of expertise built up in this domain so they will remain the dominant player for a long time to come. This should be good for Open Standards as it will prove to some skeptics that the value and money aren't created by locking down a spec, but by opening it up.
Adobe, PDF, ISO, Microsoft, XPS