Microsoft's OOXML Format

I haven’t really blogged much about this, but Microsoft’s OOXML format is currently on its way to becoming an international standard (i.e., it’s been submitted to the ISO and they have been voting on it recently).

For those of you who’ve never heard of OOXML, it’s basically a file format for documents — i.e., when you save a Microsoft Word document it will get saved to OOXML. There are a number of problems with the specification, though, which have been pointed out at length elsewhere. There is another format called Open Document Format (ODF) that has far fewer problems, and it was voted in as a standard last year.

Unfortunately, it looks like OOXML is set to become adopted as a standard in the face of all these technical difficulties as well as a perfectly acceptable standard already existing. There have been a number of controversies in the voting, for example:

March 28th: Meeting in the Norwegian Standards Institute (Standard Norge).

Purpose: To decide the final vote for Norway on whether the document format OOXML should become an international standard.

The meeting: 27 people in the room, 4 of which were administrative staff from Standard Norge.

The outcome: Of the 24 members attending, 19 disapproved, 5 approved.

The result: The administrative staff decided that Norway wants to approve OOXML as an ISO standard.

I think the ISO are well on their way to becoming totally irrelevant. If ‘standards’ can be set by methods such as these, they’re not really standards.