More Than One Way?
In More than one way?, Jim Robertson argues that Tim Bray's insisting on one file format for office documents is similar to insisting on one programming language.
And yet there he is, arguing for the "one true format" (which, coincidentally, happens to be the one Sun backs). Like other products, document formats can be good, bad, or indifferent. I haven’t looked at either in detail, but I see little harm in letting people who actually care look at them and make an informed decision.
If everyone had the choice of which formats to use and which software to use to handle these formats, he might have a point. The fact is, once one vendor's market share reaches a certain point, those who use other vendors' products require either the addition of compatibility with the major vendor's file formats, or they must switch to the other vendor. With OOXML, the format is not open. It is designed to support one vendor's proprietary products.
One of the big things about ISO standards is that government agencies normally have to follow them unless they have a compelling reason. Is it right for a government agency, trustee for the citizens, to require those citizens to buy software from one particular vendor in order to use the documents created on their behalf? If Ecma International had the integrity to insist that the format must be fully open (open meaning fully documented, and available for anyone to implement in any product at any time without the necessity to seek permission) and hopefully technically-sound, we would not be having this discussion.
Tim's article that Robertson was responding to is found here.
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