Give us the password!


 The Ecma is now advertizing the major changes they’re proposing through their answers and that does indeed sound good. I and others would even like to congratulate them if it weren’t for the complete opacity of the process and the fact that, despite what the Ecma and Microsoft claim, many of us, members of national standardization bodies, haven’t yet been able to gain access to the answers of the comments. We are for the moment left at guessing, and others than I already did this quite well; see here and here.  I am however still puzzled at the absolute lack of publicity this process has been changed into. I am not, once again talking or even willing to consider the arguments on the ISO rules. They don’t apply here. What I would like to outline here is that the Ecma is by no way legally bound to hide or restrictively distribute its answers to selected sets of standard organizations. The JTC-1 policies are clear on this matter no matter of their vagueness (they don’t request restriction, and they don’t prohibit publicity as well, as they even encourage public dissemination of information at this stage). 

What’s more, and perhaps even more critical to this situation, the actual Ecma process has become closed and secret. Now you need a password to access the TC 45 works and pages. This means three things to me: 1)This part of the Ecma process cannot be labelled as public and open 2)Given the number of modifications expected, we could argue that entire portions of the “amended” OOXML would not have been developed according to the generally accepted rules of open standards (public development and processes accessible to everybody).3)The time frame during which the TC 45 has been closed to many and open to a few extends over several months. Which means that during a non-negligeable, real period of time, OOXML has been developed behind closed doors, with no public scrutiny. All this makes the case of OOXML as an open standard harder to sustain day after day.

What is needed now is the public and unconditional access to the works of the TC 45. What is needed now is for the Ecma to give the password to their page. Give us the password! We’re laying siege at your gates…One may argue that the Ecma is providing a lot of changes. What we have here though is a press release, not tangible proposals. What we have here is the rumour of proposed changes, not the pledge by the reference implementation (yes, yes), Microsoft Office 2007 and its vendor to integrate and implement these changes and the agreed changes in the future. What we have here, at last, is a set of welcome changes but ones that are, oddly enough, changes that could be bothering any implementor to compete in governmental markets (see the focus on internationalization for instance). Am I coming to something nasty about all this? Not at all.

But frankly, let me paraphrase Mr. Ballmer in his declaration about Google’s Android: What they have is a press release. What we have is a real, open, and implemented standard. Its name is ODF. It is an ISO standard and it existed before OOXML.  You can see everything here  and here and you can even participate.Have a great end of the week!

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