Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A sad day for open standards

Let me admit it--I am saddened to see that OOXML now has the ISO stamp. The open source and free software communities are motivated by the dream of building an inclusive information society. Open standards--which can be freely implemented by anyone on a royalty-free basis and are created through consensus--are the foundation of this dream.

Therefore the Open Source Foundation of India feels that OOXML is an April Fool's Day joke played on the whole world and is a very sad outcome for open standards. The manner in which Microsoft has pushed OOXML through the ISO has breached all norms of standards creation. The voting results show that emerging economies like China, India, South Africa have voted against OOXML. Due to the manner in which one organization has hijacked the standards institution, we need to ask ourselves, "Can we trust these organizations with the critical standards that India depends upon?"

China's reaction has been to create standards of its own and it is reported that they have plans of creating 10,000 of their own standards. To protect our country's interests, we will have to ask organizations like ISO to follow transparent and ethical standards creation processes. Alternately, emerging economies will have to come together to create standards institutions that cannot be hijacked by monopolistic organizations.

Those who want to know the value of open standards just have to look at the amount of innovation that has happened on the Internet and compare it to the desktop world where competition has been systematically killed off to protect monopolies. Vendor driven standards like OOXML are not open standards and the Software Freedom Law Center has cautioned open source and free software developers from implementing OOXML due to legal risks. Since open source is the most viable alternative to expensive proprietary software, the global open source community is extremely unhappy with this development.