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Joe, you have a crucial error

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on November 09, 2007 03:22 PM
You said, referring to ODF, "They are all about interoperability." In fact, the very point we have been making is that ODF is a non-interoperable set of formats. But don't accept my word. How about the word of Thomas Zander, lead developer of KDE KOffice's word processor, KWord:

"One thing I have always dreamed to be possible is that when I write a doc in KOffice I can then open it in OOo to use that one feature that's useful to me and then save it and continue in KOffice without loosing lots of data. Its still a dream, of course. Most features are lost on opening and saving it in OOo, but its a nice goal."

How can such a situation exist? It is because ODF does not comply with ISO/IEC JTC 1 Directives as to interoperability: "Standards designed to facilitate interoperability need to specify clearly and unambiguously the conformity requirements that are essential to achieve the interoperability." (pg. 145). But don't take my word for that either. Ask someone who is telling you ODF is an interoperable set of formats to point you to where the interop conformance requirements are in the ODF specification. Good luck, because they don't exist.

The interop warts in ODF are not limited to interop with Microsoft Office. They are severe. And in fact, interoperability is not even a requirement in the ODF TC's charter. (.) If you check this post by the newly-elected ODF TC co-chair, Rob Weir of IBM, you will learn that the plan is not to clean up the interoperability mess before several iterations of the specification. "I'm more inclined to take a conventional approach to interoperability, meaning ***iterating*** on the text of the standard to eliminate ambiguities, work on test suites and compliance tests and eventually logo certification. "

I have read your articles for years and believe that you have earned your readers' trust. But you are attacking the only people who were willing to stand up to Sun and IBM's abuse of the ODF Technical Committee to limit interoperability not only with MS Office but also among ODF implementations. There is far more to this story than you recognize. See e.g., our article here, which is thoroughly referenced. (.)

I believe you owe it to yourself and your readers to dig a bit more deeply into the situation. And I will happily provide thorough documentation. Digging on this situation is a continuation of my original research and writing that turned the file format wars into a public issue worldwide. (.)

There is no shortage of proof.

I will also correct a misstatement by my colleague Sam Hiser. The OpenDocument Foundation has one remaining project relating to ODF before dissolving the corporation, a detailed proposal for the ODF TC to repair the interoperability barriers presently in the standard. I am the Foundation's remaining member of the ODF TC and am in charge of that project. But I suspect it will be met by the same cries of outrage we experienced when we previously filed bug reports against the specification.

Some people with a commercial dog in the fight wish to perpetuate the myth that "open" can properly be conflated with "interoperable." They are not synonyms. Interoperability also entails conformance requirements, as required by ISO, such as a prohibition against destroying markup created by other conformant applications. Today, ODF includes no such requirements and Sun Microsystems has taken full advantage of that fact to ensure that no other featureful ODF app can round-trip documents with StarOffice/OOo without lossiness.

If you care about the quality of standards FOSS developers support, I urge you to get the facts right in this situation. The real story is an old one, big vendor abuse of standards for competitive advantage.

If you wish to understand what is really going down, please feel free to contact me via my email address on the Foundation's contact page.


Director of legal affairs

OpenDocument Foundation


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