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Document Freedom Matters

Moved by Freedom, Powered by Standards - As the Document Freedom Day is approaching I realized that we don’t push ODF and open standards as loudly as before. Certainly most of the battles for the mind and market share are past, at least when it comes to office file formats. But the recent public consultation of the UK government brought back some of the most crucial issues surrounding ODF and it’s useful, I think, to check where stand these days on these matters.

Shortly after OOXML had been given the ISO label in the weirdrest and most outrageous way, a representative from Microsoft spoke at an IT conference in Brussels and bluntly declared “ODF has won”. Well, it is true in the sense that the OOXML standardization process had highlighted the -probably terminal- inability of the ISO to tackle IT standards and transparency in an effective way. In this sense indeed, ODF had won the “moral” battle. On the other hand, Microsoft had reached its main goal: to get the ISO’s stamp of approval on the half-baked OOXML specification. What it never achieved however, was the actual mass adoption of OOXML by the users of Microsoft Office and beyond. What’s that you say? OOXML has not reached mass adoption? Well, the actual specification, the standard, has not actually been implemented as the default file format until MS Office 2013, and yet, as an odd, end of the list option called “OOXML – strict”; OOXML – Transitional being a rubberstamp for every undocumented and unpublished sub-spec and binary blob necessary for Microsoft Office’s secret sauce to work its magic.

Of course, it is sad, yet true, to notitce that the mass adoption of ODF has failed until now, and that most companies and government use Microsoft file formats (xml based or not) as their default format. This alone would be enough to claim we haven’t moved an inch closer to true document freedom. At the same time, the IT and the way we use software and data has changed in 5-6 years.