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<title>FSFE - Six questions to national standardisation bodies about MS-OOXML</title>
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<h1>Six questions to national standardisation bodies</h1>
<center>
[<a href="msooxml-questions.pdf">Also available as PDF (28k)</a>]
</center>
<p>
The following six questions relate to the application of the
ECMA/MS-OOXML format to be accepted as an IEC/ISO standard. Unless a
national standardisation body has conclusive answers to all of them, it
should vote no in IEC/ISO and request that Microsoft incorporate its work
on MS-OOXML into ISO/IEC 26300:2006 (Open Document Format).
</p>
<p>
This is a summary document. More detailed information is available
online.
</p>
<ul>
<li>
<a href="http://www.grokdoc.net/index.php/EOOXML_objections">http://www.grokdoc.net/index.php/EOOXML_objections</a>
</li>
<li>
<a href="http://fsfe.org/activities/os/msooxml-questions">http://fsfe.org/activities/os/msooxml-questions</a>
</li>
<li>
<a href="http://www.noooxml.org/arguments">http://www.noooxml.org/arguments</a>
</li>
</ul>
<ol>
<li>
<h3>Application independence?</h3>
<p>
No standard should ever depend on a certain operating system,
environment or application. Application and implementation
independence is one of the most important properties of all
standards.
</p>
<blockquote>
<strong>
Is the MS-OOXML specification free from any references to
particular products of any vendor and their specific behaviour?
</strong>
</blockquote>
</li>
<li>
<h3>Supporting pre-existing Open Standards?</h3>
<p>
Whenever applicable and possible, standards should build upon
previous standardisation efforts and not depend on proprietary,
vendor-specific technologies.
</p>
<p>
MS-OOXML neglects various standards, such as MathML and SVG, which
are recommendations by the W3C, and uses its own vendor-specific
formats instead. This puts a substantial burden on all vendors to
follow Microsoft in its proprietary infrastructure built over the
past 20 years in order to fully implement MS-OOXML. It seems
questionable how any third party could ever implement them equally
well.
</p>
<blockquote>
<strong>
What is the benefit of accepting usage of such vendor-specific
formats at the expense of standardisation in these areas? Where
will other vendors get competitive, compatible and complete
implementations for all platforms to avoid prohibitively large
investments?
</strong>
</blockquote>
</li>
<li>
<h3>Backward compatibility for all vendors?</h3>
<p>
One of the alledged main advantages of MS-OOXML is its ability to
allow for backward compatibility, as also referenced in the
<a href="http://www.ecma-international.org/news/PressReleases/PR_TC45_Dec2006.htm">ECMA International press release</a>.
</p>
<p>
For any standard it is essential that it is implementable by any
third party without necessity of cooperation by another company,
additional restricted information or legal agreements or
indemnifications. It is also essential to not require the cooperation
of any competitor to achieve full and comparable interoperability.
</p>
<blockquote>
<strong>
On the grounds of the existing MS-OOXML specification, can any
third party regardless of business model, without access to
additional information and without the cooperation of Microsoft
implement full backward compatibility and conversion of such legacy
documents into MS-OOXML comparable to what Microsoft can offer?
</strong>
</blockquote>
</li>
<li>
<h3>Proprietary extensions?</h3>
<p>
Proprietary, application-specific extensions are a known technique
employed in particular by Microsoft to abuse and leverage its desktop
monopoly into neighboring markets. It is a technique at the heart of
the abusive behaviour that was at the core of the decision against
Microsoft by the European Commission in 2004 and Microsoft is until
today continuing its refusal to release the necessary
interoperability information.
</p>
<p>
For this reason, it is common understanding that Open Standards
should not allow such proprietary extensions, and that such
market-distorting techniques should not be possible on the grounds of
an Open Standard.
</p>
<blockquote>
<strong>
Does MS-OOXML allow proprietary extensions? Is Microsoft's
implementation of MS-OOXML faithful, i.e. without undocumented
extensions? Are there safeguards against such abusive behaviour?
</strong>
</blockquote>
</li>
<li>
<h3>Dual standards?</h3>
<p>
The goal of all standardisation is always to come to one single
standard, as multiple standards always provide an impediment to
competition. Seeming competition on the standard is truly a strategic
measure to gain control over certain segments of a market, as various
examples in the past have demonstrated.
</p>
<p>
There is an existing Open Standard for office documents, namely the
Open Document Format (ODF) (ISO/IEC 26300:2006). Both MS-OOXML and
ODF are built upon XML technology, so employ the same base technology
and thus ultimately have the same theoretical capabilities. Microsoft
itself is a member of OASIS, the organisation in which the ODF
standard was developed and is being maintained. It was aware of the
process and invited to participate.
</p>
<blockquote>
<strong>
Why did and does Microsoft refuse to participate in the existing
standardisation effort? Why does it not submit its technological
proposals to OASIS for inclusion into ODF?
</strong>
</blockquote>
</li>
<li>
<h3>Legally safe?</h3>
<p>
Granting all competitors freedom from legal prosecution for
implementation of a standard is essential. Such a grant needs to be
clear, reliable and wide enough to cover all activities necessary to
achieve full interoperability and allow a level playing field for
true competition on the merits.
</p>
<p>
MS-OOXML is accompanied by an unusually complex and narrow "covenant
not to sue" instead of the typical patent grant. Because of its
complexity, it does not seem clear how much protection from
prosecution for compatibility it will truly provide.
</p>
<p>
Cursory legal study implies that the covenant does not cover all
optional features and proprietary formats mandatory for complete
implementation of MS-OOXML. So freedom of implementation by all
competitors is not guaranteed for the entire width of the proposed
MS-OOXML format, and questionable even for the core components.
</p>
<blockquote>
<strong>
Does your national standardisation body have its own, independent
legal analysis about the exact nature of the grant to certify
whether it truly covers the full spectrum of all possible MS-OOXML
implementations?
</strong>
</blockquote>
</li>
</ol>
<p>
All these questions should have answers that should be provided by the
national standardisation bodies through independent counsel and experts,
and in particular not by Microsoft or its business partners, which have a
direct conflict of interest on this issue.
</p>
<p>
If there is no good answer to any one of them, a national body should
vote no in ISO/IEC.
</p>
<h2>Related reading</h2>
<ul>
<li><a href="/documents/msooxml-interoperability.html">Interoperability woes with MS-OOXML</a></li>
<li><a href="/documents/msooxml-idiosyncrasies.html">DIS-29500: Deprecated before use?</a></li>
<li><a href="/documents/msooxml-converter-hoax.html">The Converter Hoax</a></li>
<li><a href="/documents/msooxml-questions-for-ms.html">Questions for Microsoft on Open Formats</a></li>
</ul>
</body>
<tags>
<tag>Policy</tag>
<tag content="Open Standards">OpenStandards</tag>
</tags>
<timestamp>$Date$ $Author$</timestamp>
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