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Tuesday, 15 January 2008 01:41

Microsoft should put old file formats in the public domain

Dutch not-for-profit venture capitalist NLnet Foundation has called on Microsoft to release its older file formats into the public domain to enable businesses, open source-developers and the standards community to better access their own documents in the future, and to help them get Microsoft's products to work with the new open standard ODF.
According to NLnet, "releasing the full blueprints of the many different versions of Microsoft's old Office formats (better known as .doc, .xls and .ppt) into the public domain is urgently required for work on future versions of ODF (ISO 26300)...the new and broadly supported ISO-standard for Office formats that fast becoming the default file format of choice for text editors, spreadsheets and other office applications with governments, businesses, NGO's and individuals."

NLnet says that, over the next weeks national standards bodies worldwide are due to make up their minds about the controversial re-archiving format OOXML currently under heavy fire within the International Standards Organisation (ISO).

NLnet recently joined ECMA as a member to improve interoperability of future OOXML versions with the ODF standard. It says it was alarmed by the fact that "even the committee members do not get the real specifications of the file formats they are supposed to be re-encoding."

Michiel Leenaars, strategy manager at NLnet Foundation and the longest sitting member of the Netherlands national standards body committee responsible for both ODF and OOXML, said: "Surely no-one can make - or judge - a decent re-archiving standard if the original file formats are unknown to them...Currently Microsoft provides part of the specifications under a non-disclosure agreement but these are vastly incomplete, illegible, and available only under very restrictive conditions - and therefore of little use to either standards bodies or to the software community. "

According to NLnet, there has been quite some controversy over OOXML in the so far unsuccessful standardisation process. Many of the technical issues still have to be resolved in line with compatibility requirements from a largely unknown format. It is concerned that "the continuation of the OOXML standardisation process without the actual specifications will result in serious misalignments and vast information loss for potentially tens of millions of customers (and former customers) from Microsoft."

NLnet Foundation claims to be a widely respected private charity fund supporting open standards and open source worldwide that has actively contributed to Internet standards, open source projects and subsidiary or enabling activities such as the development of GPLv3 over a number of years.

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