The fact is, nobody outside the Ecma and probably ISO knows how OOXML looks like now. It is particularly cumbersome, not so much because that could amount to one more irregularity against the JTC1’s SC 34, but also because it creates yet one more precedent in the long story of anti-competitive practices by Microsoft. At the time this article is being written, there is no sign of OOXML and according to the loosest estimations, we should have seen it on the 2 nd of May at the latest.
But there is nothing, neither on the ISO web site, nor on the JTC1’s, while the Ecma and the Microsoft web site habor nothing else than their other usual news on other topics.
Rob Weir is wondering who may be induly favoured by this situation; I am but desesperately resigned to see this kind of irregularities happen. Unfortunately it strikes me as obvious that whatever irregular actions might be accomplished further in the OOXML case, the ISO will not be doing anything. It will carry on the farce, no matter what it takes, and will serve the Ecma (and the Ecma’s main shareholder’s interests) even if that means jumping in the pond of Ridicule.
Today it occured to me that we were getting closer to the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A defining moment of History always comes with its flurry of anecdotes, quotes, and images, especially when we are close to it. And twenty years is very close on historical timelines. This is how the following sentence popped back in my mind: « Die Partei hat immer Recht »; it means « the Party is always right » with a very subtle nuance that I believe of some importance: The emphasis lies not on the righteousness of the said party (the SED, East-German Communist Party) or the mere affirmation that it always speaks the truth, but it lies in the subtle, deeper sense that the Party owns the right, or defines the law by which it owns the right to judge what is right and what is wrong. If that notion had not been consciously or unconsciously implied in this slogan, then the German sentence would have merely been « Die Partei ist immer richtig », the exact translation in English being « the Party is always right ». The original terms though convey the nuance I describe above through the use of the verb «to have/haben » and the subsequent use of the common noun « Das Recht » (the right, as in human rights), understood in a quasi-legal sense.
Now if you care to ask me, what in blazes does this linguistic considerations have to do with OOXML? The repeated and successful attempts by Microsoft to influence the outcome of the OOXML standardization process at the levels of the ISO’s JTC1 and of the national standards body was in itself unseen and the evidence that some large corporations are ready to do whatever it takes to fulfill their strategic objectives. Yet, the incongruous, unexpected behaviour of the standardization world has given way to a near total impunity for the Ecma and Microsoft. No matter how twisted a situation can be, the JTC1’s SC34 should always be followed, and when the rules do not fit the Ecma, then the rules are ignored or simply changed. At this stage, we do not know the reasons for which OOXML has not yet been published. I’m not even requesting the very final, ISO -stamped version of OOXML, but just the final, post BRM, consolidated version of OOXML. That too does not seem to exist. But worry not, some reasons will be made up, almost on the fly, cunningly lame and incredibly mediocre explanations that will show the utter submission to powerful interests of some inside the SC34 and the complete brainwashing of others.
In a few words like in a thousands, « Die Partei hat immer Recht ».
NB to the people working for Microsoft or for an entity having ties with Microsoft: I do not imply that Microsoft is like the East-German « United Workers’ Party » or that Microsoft is communist in any way (but Steve Ballmer implied that Free Software movement is communism, if you care to remember). Therefore I do not want to hear any threats or requests for public apologies for this blog. I meant what I meant, and said what I had to say. Don’t look for meanings that are not there. This is my mere, personal opinion and I am blessed to live in a country that is a democracy where Free Speech (just like Free Software) is protected and allowed. I am sure you too can appreciate that as well.