“Commiserations to my successor” – OOXML Strikes Again!

In what is an astonishingly outspoken report, Martin Bryan, Convenor, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC34 WG1 has given us insight into the total mess that Microsoft/ECMA have caused during their scandalous, underhand and unremitting attempts to get – what is a very poorly written specification – approved as an ISO standard.

This year WG1 have had another major development that has made it almost impossible to continue with our work within ISO. The influx of P members whose only interest is the fast-tracking of ECMA 376 as ISO 29500 has led to the failure of a number of key ballots. Though P members are required to vote, 50% of our current members, and some 66% of our new members, blatantly ignore this rule despite weekly email reminders and reminders on our website. As ISO require at least 50% of P members to vote before they start to count the votes we have had to reballot standards that should have been passed and completed their publication stages at Kyoto. This delay will mean that these standards will appear on the list of WG1 standards that have not been produced within the time limits set by ISO, despite our best efforts.

These people, who do such important work in developing and specifying globally useful standards – that ultimately benefit all of us – are usually very circumspect with their choice of language in any public communication.

For Martin to write:

The second half of 2007 has been an extremely trying time for WG1. I am more than a little glad my 3 year term is up, and must commiserate with my successor on taking over an almost impossible task.

and even more:

The disparity of rules for PAS, Fast-Track and ISO committee generated standards is fast making ISO a laughing stock in IT circles. The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting “standardization by corporation”, something I have been fighting against for the 20 years I have served on ISO committees. I am glad to be retiring before the situation becomes impossible. I wish my colleagues every success for their future efforts, which I sincerely hope will not prove to be as wasted as I fear they could be.

is really quite amazing.

Being the sceptic I am, I did wonder about the longevity of this article at its original location. So, for historical record, here it is.

I really can’t believe that Microsoft can be allowed to get away with this any longer.

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  • Peter says:

    The problem is that only the SPIRIT of the rules were broken. Like with Kerberos, Microsoft was quick to spot the delta between the spirit of the rules and what they say in text and abuse it to basically destroy yet another useful thing.

    ISO was defenseless against this blatant abuse of process because nobody had ever encountered such an unethical organisation like Microsoft before, and this also goes for the incredible naive ‘changes’ in national voting protocol MS managed to convince people of.

    If ISO wants to pull itself out of the hole it’ll first have to ditch the new P members, and if it has any smarts it should throw out MSOOXML altogether until it has repaired the internal damage inflicted by MS. Only after that would I permit MS to submit anything again. Let them take ISO to court for it – it would be very interesting to see the complete submission of abuses that took place during the voting and a formal damage assessment to any other standards process that was underwya when MS added non functional P members.

    If I had an industry whose standard was affected by this I’d have a think if I wanted to go near MS products again because they had just gone up in price..

  • Alan Lord says:

    I agree with your summary Peter.

    I’m not so sure about how they (the ISO) deal with the aftermath they now find themselves in though.

    Clearly something has been badly broken by M$ and some kind of justice should be brought to bear. They have really screwed something that worked – most of the time – for the benefit of everyone. Now it’s fscked.

    We are providing a venue for individuals to examine and “comment” on the comments submitted at the September vote. It is at http://www.dis29500.org. If you haven’t already, pay it a visit.



  • That “standardization by corporation” threat is precisely why we need OpenISO.org.

  • Alan Lord says:

    @Norbert, thanks for the link and good luck with your proposal. With PJ behind it you’ll get some good traction.


  • […] Standards are for the benefit of us all. They should and must not be used for the benefit of one company so as to retain it’s Monopoly. Vote NO. Bookmark […]

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