ISO/IEC officially redundant and history

Thanks to Andy Updegrove for bringing this to our attention.


We, the undersigned representatives of state IT organisations from Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay, note with disappointment the press release from ISO/IEC/JTC-1 of 20 August regarding the appeals registered by the national bodies of Brazil, South Africa, India and Venezuela. Our national bodies, together with India, had independently raised a number of serious concerns about the process surrounding the fast track approval of DIS29500. That those concerns were not properly addressed in the form of a conciliation panel reflects poorly on the integrity of these international standards development institutions.

Whereas we do not intend to waste any more resources on lobbying our national bodies to pursue the appeals further, we feel it is important to make the following points clear:

  1. The bending of the rules to facilitate the fast track processing of DIS29500 remains a significant concern to us. That the ISO TMB did not deem it necessary to properly explore the substance of the appeals must, of necessity, put confidence in those institutions ability to meet our national requirements into question.
  2. The overlap of subject matter with the existing ISO/IEC26300 (Open Document Format) standard remains an area of concern. Many of our countries have made substantial commitments to the use of ISO/IEC26300, not least because it was published as an ISO standard in 2006.
  3. The large scale adoption of a standard for office document formats is a long and expensive exercise, with multi-year projects being undertaken in each of our countries. Many of us have dedicated significant time and resources to this effort. For example, in Brazil, the process of translation of ISO/IEC26300 into Portuguese has taken over a year.

The issues which emerged over the past year have placed all of us at a difficult crossroads. Given the organisation’s inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement. What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks. Whereas in the past it has been assumed that an ISO/IEC standard should automatically be considered for use within government, clearly this position no longer stands.


Aslam Raffee (South Africa)
Chairman, Government IT Officer’s Council Working Group on Open Standards Open Source Software

Marcos Vinicius Ferreira Mazoni (Brazil)
Presidente, Servico Federal de Processamento de Dados

Carlos Eloy Figueira (Venezuela)
President, Centro Nacional de Tecnologías de Información

Eduardo Alvear Simba (Ecuador)
Director de Software Libre, Presidencia de la República

Tomas Ariel Duarte C. (Paraguay)
Director de Informática, Presidencia de la República

Miriam Valdés Abreu (Cuba)
Directora de Análisis, Oficina para la Informatización.


The above is a joint and public statement from the State IT bodies of Brazil, South Africa, Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba and Paraguay when they met at a conference CONSEGI 2008 at the end of last week.

It is a really important development in the OOXML (DIS29500) fiasco and one that confirms what I have been saying for some time now; that ISO/IEC, in respect to ICT standards at least, are finished. They have no trust in ISO’s ability to produce Open Standards any more.

I was particulary interested in how much effort has been put into supporting IS26300 which was approved in 2006 and is now in widespread use around the world. This is the default (and currently the only really open standards) document format in many office suites like and also on many of the on-line services like Google Docs. It will even be supported in the next SP to, and release of, Microsoft’s Office product before they get around to delivering DIS29500 – if they ever do that is.

This has really been a sorry affair for ISO. They have lost all credibility, have been shafted well and truly by M$/ECMA and now are being told to “F” off in no uncertain terms by nation state IT organisations. What a complete mess.

ISO gives up on IT Standards: approves OOXML

So, as everyone thought would happen, the naive and sycophantic ISO and IEC bodies have decided to ignore the appeals, the scandalous bribery and corruption of their hitherto decent standing and approve ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (OOXML to you and me).

The two ISO and IEC technical boards have given the go-ahead to publish ISO/IEC DIS 29500, Information technology – Office Open XML formats, as an ISO/IEC International Standard after appeals by four national standards bodies against the approval of the document failed to garner sufficient support.

And toward the end of the rather short press release they come up with this real gem:

The adoption process of Office Open XML (OOXML) as an ISO/IEC Standard has generated significant debate related to both technical and procedural issues which have been addressed according to ISO and IEC procedures.

Understating the blindingly obvious or what? And just what has been addressed exactly? Nothing it seems to me. They have just bent over and let M$ shove their specification where the sun don’t shine.

But, as we near the end of this farce and fiasco, I think there are a couple of ironies which mark the approval of OOXML, and the process surrounding, ultimately as being little more that a damp squib.

  • The decision by Microshaft themselves to not bother with OOXML in their next Office release and to, even more amazingly, deliver native support for ODF.
  • The fiasco has shown that ISO/IEC is basically now an irrelevance when it comes to defining useful standards within the sphere of IT. They are too slow, too ponderous and too “up-their-own-arses” to be able to recognise when they have been shafted.

We have plenty of excellent standardisation bodies which have fundamentally driven the creation of the Internet and they have all used community-based, open processes. IETF, W3C and so on.

All I remember the ISO ever giving me in IT was the notorious OSI 7 Layer Model way back in the 80s. And what happened to it? It died almost before it was born because an open, easy to implement and flexible protocol stack called TCP/IP came along…

Bye Bye ISO.

OOXML: Back Orifice 2007?

I know, I know…

“I really don’t think OOXML is worth wasting much time over any more …”

And I only wrote that a few hours ago too! But I simply couldn’t resist this gem of a story from Roy Schestowitz over at Boycott Novell:

… I got a couple of docx documents and had trouble getting them to open, even with the plug-in for Office XP. Next thing I know, I get a notice from my registry auditor that I have 1300 new registry errors. And suddenly, my PC is churning the disk-drive and the network connection at 3:00 AM (I’m getting old and have to get up), and the network shows that I’m uploading something at full speed, even though my computer is supposedly sleeping. …

Reading this was so coincidental – last night I was in my local pub talking with a mate who’s an IT Security professional. And we were chatting (reminiscing?) about Back Orifice….

OOXML (And Microsoft): In Memoriam

I haven’t written much about the OOXML scandal for a while now for a couple of reasons:

  1. I’ve had more important things to do.
  2. I honestly believe that it is going to be a totally insignificant and inconsequential standard that will probably be dead (isn’t it already?) before it’s first birthday.

However, having just read the flame-war over on Alex Brown’s blog I couldn’t resist and simply had to make a comment. Which I did 😉 If it isn’t approved for some reason, that comment (verbatim) is here:

Words, Words, Words…

Will all of you get a life; please?

We all know that OOXML will be approved, but who gives a toss anyway?

It will be of little or no importance to anyone. It’s a dead duck before the shell is even broken.

Nobody believes it was an “honest” process. No body believes that Microshaft didn’t screw the process. No body believes that Doug ‘Mawho’ is Vice President of IASA Malaysia. Nobody believes that Azerbaijan, Côte-d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malta, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay and others weren’t bought and paid for. And EVERY one believes Martin Bryant when he said so publicly:

“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”.”

Who are you trying to kid Alex? What do you gain? A few nice juicy contracts and some speaking engagements at M$’s ‘special rates’?

Move along. Nothing to see here.

So swiftly moving on, I really don’t think OOXML is worth wasting much time over any more. Even M$ it seems doesn’t really want IS29500. The rest of us really care little about it, especially now there are so many other avenues for preservation of our data and the world is finally starting to “grok” what Open really means.

So runs my dream, but what am I?
An infant crying in the night
An infant crying for the light
And with no language but a cry.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

OOXML: 2006-2008

Formal Appeal against OOXML filed by South Africa

Things are really hotting up again… Just when I thought we could get on with our day jobs we have Microsoft doing the biggest U-turn since – well – since the last massive U-Turn, and now we have SABS, the South African Bureau of Standards (The NB to you and me) lodging a formal appeal regarding the proceedings.

I don’t have much time today but here’s a link to the article I picked up from Google Alerts and it contains a scanned PDF of the original letter.

This will, irrespective of the outcome of the appeal process, create a quite lengthy delay to any formal publication of the standard according to the rules I’ve read before. Of course the rules have been broken, and just ignored throughout this whole fiasco so we have to wait and see.

But “Hat’s off to South Africa”.

OOXML gets dumped… By Microsoft!

If true, this is a quite startling turn of events in the OOXML/Office 2007 saga (emphasis mine).

Today, Microsoft announced that it was making new commitments to document interoperability within its Office product line for Windows. Office 2007 Service Pack 2 will add native support for OpenDocument Format (ODF) 1.1, PDF 1.5, PDF/A and XML Paper Specification, an XML-based fixed-document format created by Microsoft.

Just read that again… Office 2007 will add native support for ODF (IS26300) the format used by, IBM’s Lotus Symphony, Koffice and others…

And more importantly Doug (the ssssnake) goes on to say:

Mahugh stated that Microsoft would not implement the final ISO version of OOXML until Office 14 ships at an unstated date in the future.

So what the **** has gone on here? Anyone got any suggestions?

[Update: 23:00] Having just read Microsoft’s press release, it appears to be true. Blow me down with a small and lightweight feather. One quote that immediately caught my attention is this (again emphasis mine):

“We are committed to providing Office users with greater choice among document formats and enhanced interoperability between those formats and the applications that implement them,” said Chris Capossela, senior vice president for the Microsoft Business Division. “By increasing the openness of our products and participating actively in the development and maintenance of document format standards, we believe we can help create opportunities for developers and competitors, including members of the open source communities, to innovate and deliver new value for customers.”

Blimey. This language is unusually opaque for M$. Since when have they ever wanted to “help create opportunities for competitors”??? I can only guess at what has been going on here but I bet it has something to do with the EU 😉

WOW. We do really live in interesting times.

« Previous PageNext Page »