GNOME and ECMA TC45 revisited

4:58 pm General

A few weeks ago, I blogged about GNOME’s membership of ECMA and participation in TC45 (concerning the standardisation of Microsoft OOXML). Apparently a few people felt that my statement could be misinterpreted to mean that I support Microsoft’s standardisation effort.

The GNOME Foundation made an official statement this week outlining their position on TC45. The short version is that the GNOME Foundation’s support for Jody Goldberg’s participation in TC45 does not constitute endorsement of, or contribution to, ISO standardisation of MS Office Open XML, and in fact, we are deeply concerned that the abuse of the standards process is eroding public trust in the value and independence of standards bodies like ISO and ECMA.

This is a clear reflection of my own position. I love free software, and love to see a level playing field both technically and legally. In our participation in TC45, I see an opportunity to improve our interoperability with a file format which will be important in the future, and to flatten the playing field. I do not trust Microsoft or their motives. I do not support their effort to reduce the credibility of international standards by subverting the processes of the standards bodies. But I stand behind our membership of ECMA and our participation in TC45.

Way back in June, Luis Villa wrote that we should put out a statement to the effect ‘we see no way to avoid implementing OOXML without screwing our users, so we’re joining ECMA to make sure it sucks as little as possible. All other things being equal, we’d much prefer to implement a spec that has a much better patent grant, was developed through a more public process, uses open standards like mathml, etc., but since MS has a dominant market position, we don’t have much of a choice in the matter.’

The Foundation statement here reflects this. The source of a standard application is not what is important, what’s important is the process used, and the conditions under which implementation is possible. Competing standards is not the issue. Microsoft is not the issue. Our users are the issue, and our participation in TC45 is more about them than anything else.

7 Responses

  1. jmbourque Says:

    In other words, ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’

  2. Rob Bradford Says:


    Thank you for this accurate, concise and well written summary of the situation.

  3. Robert Says:

    How sad! and in the process help OOXML become an ISO standard. What are you thinking man. Why not wait until the ISO process is over for all this documentation you need. How many .docx files you recieved. NONE Unfortunately your position is naivety dressed up as pragmatism and the result is having an effect on the ISO process and to the detriment of ODF and the community at large.

  4. Benoit Jacob Says:

    Hey Dave! You might remember, we met at the KDE hackfest at Wengo in January.

    I like reading your blog post, showing that GNOME’s position is not really in favor of OOXML as a standard, and that GNOME only gets involved out of perceived necessity.

    However, I still disagree with GNOME’s position! I think that, regardless of statements such as this blog entry, Microsoft will find a way to make it all sound like “even core members of the FOSS community such as GNOME are supporting OOXML”. Journalists often do a very poor job checking the details, and so do biased members of standardization committees. In other words, sadly, I think Microsoft is manipulating GNOME. I hate saying this! But I’m really quite confident about that.

    So I think that the only good way to deal with OOXML is to reject it completely, without any ambiguity.

    Of course I wouldn’t say that, if OOXML constituted the beginning of a sincere attempt from Microsoft to improve its relationship to the FOSS community. But that’s not the case. OOXML is just the latest example of Microsoft’s way of leveraging file formats to kill competition. There’s no reason to be more optimistic than that.

  5. Peteris Krisjanis Says:

    I think this ONE case where all people who thinks that OOXML is relevant must “shut up”, as someone already suggested (or it was about opposition):

    Ok, it is just irony, and I am just venting off and that’s nothing personal, guys. I think you rock supporting free software and GNOME project especially.

    BUT….I think in this one case free software/open source community should have been very resistant to support OOXML. First of all, I think, OOXML as it is now is meant for failure (as standard, it doesn’t fully answers to Office2007 output, it has numerous small but annoying errors, etc.). Microsoft knows this and I strongly suggest that OOXML 2 is already in the works. That’s first. Second, OOXML can be supported, but not trough ISO standardisation process, because I think, GNOME can’t support something so borked like OOXML to become ISO. I hope agree with this.

    Anyway, keep in mind that people have been getting more and more angry about Microsoft actions as trying to twist and even corrupt (or walking borderline) ISO standardisation process just to push OOXML trough. So most of shouting is not against you, but is against Microsoft, in fact.

  6. Peteris Krisjanis Says:

    Maybe I just went off a little soon, now I remember that GNOME Foundation already clarified that it doesn’t support OOXML in ISO process.

    Sorry for being too harsh on this topic, it is sometimes I just feel very angry about Microsoft trying to do this.

  7. Boycott Novell » One Life, One App Says:

    […] not raised out in the open, we are destined to be locked down in another digital dark age. Although one man has attempted to implement rudimentary OOXML support in Gnumeric, it is estimated that it would […]

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