OOXML approved as an ISO standard

Specially during the last year, I talked about OOXML several times in this blog. Despite already existing already an open standard for documents, Microsoft pushed its own format to be an ISO standard, and, using polemic tactics, they finally made it. The official press release isn't out there yet (it will be today), but both ECMA and Microsoft already made press releases announcing the approval.

What does this mean? Is it a defeat? As you know if you've read my previous comments on OOXML, I was against it being an ISO standard. Now that it is, it is important to stress the importance that there are two standards, ODF and OOXML, and of those only ODF is open. But I don't consider all the work made to rise issues on OOXML was in vain. The discussion arose lots of awareness about OOXML problems. OOXML was modified since its submission, and while it still has several critical problems, it is now better than it was one year ago. And the whole issue isn't over yet.

What is there to be done? Well, first of all, it's important to act wisely and understand that now that OOXML is an ISO standard, it should be supported in the biggest number of applications and platforms. For instance, OpenOffice still doesn't support OOXML (although it is already in their roadmap). Also, standards aren't immutable. The work into maintaining and enhancing document standards just doubled, but it's something that must be done. There's already work being done for ODF 1.2 (expected to be an ISO standard on Summer 2009), but surely there will be plans to release new versions of OOXML. This is quite important and shouldn't be ignored, also by (maybe specially by) people that, like me, don't like OOXML. That is the opportunity to fix OOXML problems, but there's an huge risk of having new versions pushed by Microsoft using the same tactics that were used now, making OOXML even worse for everyone but Microsoft. We all should have our eyes open to that possibility, specially because many people might expect that new versions should be automaticly approved just because the actual specification is already an ISO standard.

It that it? Will we have to deal with two standards, implement two standards, do twice the work? Well, maybe it's time to - without prejudice into the work on ODF and OOXML - create yet another format that deprecates both ODF and OOXML. This is something I really don't like, and don't think I'm recommending that, but I'm afraid that, in a not so distant future, that might be the only way of fixing all this double standards mess.

But, but... What credibility can have a standard that was approved like this? Well, not much - for those of us who know what happened, and what are the flaws in OOXML. But for non-tech people, like politicians, librarians, teachers, and everyone else, it will not be clear that this standard isn't a good choice. And here's where we must act. For instance, EU wants to have all their documents in a standard format. We (Europeans) are the ones who should show them why they shouldn't choose OOXML. Who else?

UPDATE: ISO official announcement here


  1. An important point is that public administrations and the interoperability frameworks must differentiate

    * MS-OOXML as in MS-Office 2007
    * ECMA-376 as sent to ISO/IEC
    * ISO 29500:2008 as it (expectedly) will come out of ISO/IEC.

    They are three different formats and the last two have no any current
    implementation. So, let's put clear that MS-Office 2007 is not implementing
    the coming ISO 29500:2008.

  2. Interesting press release from FFII, representing my thoughts on the issue.