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Microsoft XML Fast-Tracked Despite Complaints 246

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the just-keep-pushing dept.
Lars Skovlund writes "Groklaw reports that the Microsoft Office XML standard is being put on the fast track in ISO despite the detailed complaints from national standards bodies. The move seems to be the decision of one person, Lisa Rachjel, secretariat of the ISO Joint Technical Committee, according to a comment made by her."
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Microsoft XML Fast-Tracked Despite Complaints

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  • by Kenja (541830) on Monday March 12, 2007 @05:58PM (#18323351)
    There are all sorts of ISO standards that people refuse to use in their current form. Not seeing this one as that big of a deal however. I'd rather have a published standard for microsoft interoperation via XML file formats then the old .doc & .xsl files.


    Oh yes, "Groklaw SMASH!"
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumG (50515) *
      Like, say, the C99 standard.. it's 2007 and we still don't have a conforming implementation. The committee failed to perform its mandate, codifying existing practice, and we, the developers who use this language, have suffered as a result.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I would love to see them codify existing practice:

        C99 standard section 10.1.2:
        if the compiler name is "Microsoft Visual C++" then
            .
            .
        else if the compiler name is "GCC" then
            .
            .
        end if

        (It's true but funny)
        • by QuantumG (50515) *
          heh, true.

          Shit like zero length arrays vs variable length arrays was more what I was thinking.

          There was essentially only two parts good to C99: // and mid block variable declarations.

          But then again, it has been 5 years since I bothered to read it.
    • There are all sorts of ISO standards that people refuse to use in their current form.

      The article linked to that M$ party line statement [channelregister.co.uk], and it's pathetic on two levels. The first is that it's a sorry excuse to push a new bad standard. The second is that it's admission that Microsoft Office XML is a bad standard.

      The parade of backlash to their bullying is heartening. The tactics are, as usual, backfiring on them. "Microsoft, just say no." sounds like a nice slogan.

      Oh yes, "Groklaw SMASH!"

      Indeed,

    • "There are all sorts of ISO standards that people refuse to use in their current form."

      But how many of them are used by a product that has a monopoly share of the market? People will buy Microsoft Office 2007. People will save almost all documents using the default OXML format. People will feel the pain of Microsoft's lock-in once more.
    • by twitter (104583) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:24PM (#18323739) Homepage Journal

      I'd rather have a published standard for microsoft interoperation via XML file formats then the old .doc & .xsl files.

      This too seems to be the M$ party line - the magic of XML is better than their old secret formats. It's bogus, of course, because their new XML is as poorly defined as any of their formats [slashdot.org]. If M$ was interested in interoperability, they would use ODF and make a converter using their knowledge of their crusty old standards. It's an impossible task because their old "standards" were contradictory to begin with [slashdot.org]. At the end of the day, the old formats are doomed to well deserved neglect, and there's no reason M$ could not just publish everything about them and let their former users translate things for themselves.

      There's so much double talk around this issue, it's not even funny.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by TekPolitik (147802)

        their new XML is as poorly defined as any of their formats

        It's actually much worse than the /. article you linked to would suggest. That article merely suggests there are undocumented bits, but the truth is that a substantial portion of the documentation is flat out wrong. If you follow the documentation, I guarantee you that your file will not be readable in any version of Microsoft Office.

    • by mpapet (761907) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:26PM (#18323787) Homepage
      It's kind of like .doc only with obfuscation and litigation clearly called out.

      What you fail to realize is the published standard in this case is handcuffed to an arsenal of undocumented licensed components.

      From http://www.microsoft.com/interop/osp/default.mspx [microsoft.com]

      Q: Why doesn't the OSP apply to things that are merely referenced in the specification?

      A: It is a common practice that technology licenses focus on the specifics of what is detailed in the specification(s) and exclude what are frequently called "enabling technologies."

      Hmmm... So the specification alludes to closed and undocumented "enabling technologies" without specifying them OR licensing them. Same old Microsoft.
  • No teeth. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Original Replica (908688) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:02PM (#18323411) Journal
    "despite the detailed complaints from national standards bodies."

    So what is the point of these national standards bodies? Standards without a method of enforcement, are called "suggestions".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gkhan1 (886823)

      Since you can't enforce these standards legally, you have to have these sorts of organisations that at least try to get some sort of consensus. After they've agreed on a standard, that can then become part of the conversation between different companies. "Can you implement standard X" instead of "What exactly do you do?"

      Even if these standards have no "teeth", it is still hugely useful that they exist. Not all become what is used, but many do. Remember, HTTP and TCP/IP are such standards. They have caught

      • Even if these standards have no "teeth", it is still hugely useful that they exist.

        Only if they are minimal, complete and unambiguous. In other words, only if everyone implementing the standard will follow the same conventions in practice. Since Microsoft's XML "standard" is neither complete nor unambiguous, it's worth about as much to anyone else as a patent dressed up in obscuring legalese, and any standards body worth its salt should reject it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "despite the detailed complaints from national standards bodies." [...] So what is the point of these national standards bodies? Standards without a method of enforcement, are called "suggestions".

      It depends on what the complaints actually were and how legitimate they are. I'm certain a lot of them were variations on "Micro$oft is teh SUX0R". There might have been some reasonable ones as well, but just because someone complains, doesn't mean the complaints are valid.

      • by MeNeXT (200840)
        Thank you for clarifying that but what was your point and what did you mean? Your guess is that someone guessed? I was under the impression that complaints were filed and open to review as per the article. Your point is that you guess that someone was probably somewhat, or somehow pretending to have complaints?

        As per the article the complaints were "detailed" and were filed by "national standards bodies". "I'm certain" that you assumed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Thank you for clarifying that but what was your point and what did you mean?

          My point is that people seem to think that just because they get complaints, then somehow the standard organization shouldn't move forward (or shouldn't fast track the standard). I would be surprised if anything with Microsoft's name didn't get complaints.

    • Oh no... They have teeth, they just didn't have the chance of using it yet.

      ECMA submitted the standard for ISO. ISO can't really edit it alone, since it would ceasse to be an ECMA standard, and as it is already a standard, it goes to fast tracking. Then, the draft goes to the members, so they can comment on it, and everybody can create a better standard toghether.

      We are here now. ECMA simply refused to improve its standard to meet ISO expectations. ISO could take tha long route, and disscuss the subject f

  • ...is there are so many to choose from. Yes?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Locklin (1074657)
      Seems interesting that the ISO is in a hurry to sanction a standard that is specifically designed to make compliance as difficult as possible.
  • no big deal (Score:4, Funny)

    by eerok (1033124) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:10PM (#18323521)
    This is likely just a fast track off a short pier.

  • Assuming that the groups that had all the problems with it are not swayed by something between now and then, the end result looks a bit more like it would be a rejection than an approval... and if it's an approval, it will be a squeaker, not a landslide victory.

    That said, it should be noted that the MSOXML does not fully expand out the data. When you read the article, you find that there are still things that are binary-encoded and proprietary.

    As for standards, especially ISO ones, using the words of one

    • Fast tracking only shows how much push they have and gives them more time to try again if it gets shot down. Reviewers should be respected, given the time they ask for and listened to when they finally form opinions.

      • What's to say they won't go and join the member organizations in countries that require unanimous votes, regardless?

        If you've read the article, unless those nations have a greater-than-five-month waiting period, they'll go and join up in those countries, and end up causing a non-unanimous vote such that the member nation ends up with an "abstain" instead of "no." This is a tactic they've used in the past in order to get some of their stuff through.

        Unfortunately, no matter what you do, MS will try anythin

    • They're camels. A camel is a horse designed by committee.

      If we're talking about something you'd want to ride in the desert, a horse is a camel designed by a PR department. Or by Steve Jobs.

  • How it works (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by edwardpickman (965122)
    Guess we all know what she got for Christmas.
  • by cdrguru (88047) on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:36PM (#18323933) Homepage
    Well, I suppose a standard could be created based on the documentation from Microsoft. It is hardly an independently-implementable standard, however.

    Alternatively, a workable standard that is truely interoperable could be accepted that is not anything Microsoft would implement.

    I seriously doubt there is much middle ground between these two positions. Microsoft is after all in a position to just say no.

    The real problem is that even with (X)HTML/CSS it is not currently possible to take two different implementations and produce the same printed output from the same source material. This is a far, far simplier standard than anything being discussed as a word processing format, and yet there is no common implementation. I am not even sure there is today an accepted "correct" implementation for printing HTML.

    How are we going to have a multi-implementation standard for word processing that produces identical formatted documents? I would say it is clear we are not going to have this. This makes the "standards" process a joke.

    If you somehow believe that the "presentation" can be separated from the "content" in important documents, you probably need to have more familiarity with government processes.
    • by MeNeXT (200840)
      (X)HTML/CSS were not intended for print. Word with doc "standard" has trouble printing the same document on different printers from the same computer. The closest are Postscript and PDF, but even then you sometimes have font problems, color issues and more minor trouble.

      This ISO standardization is supposed to clear up this matter but only seems to bring in more confusion.

      NeXT had Display Postcript which rendered close to true but had no interoperability with any other system.

      This is not a simple problem tha
    • by mollymoo (202721)

      The real problem is that even with (X)HTML/CSS it is not currently possible to take two different implementations and produce the same printed output from the same source material. This is a far, far simplier standard than anything being discussed as a word processing format, and yet there is no common implementation. I am not even sure there is today an accepted "correct" implementation for printing HTML.

      HTML and CSS were never designed to display identically on different devices. In fact, they explicit

  • by Matt Perry (793115) <perry,matt54&yahoo,com> on Monday March 12, 2007 @06:42PM (#18324009)
    The only reason that Microsoft wants this to be a standard is to get past the proposed laws that specify that government documents use an open standard. That's why these proposed laws, like the one recently introduced in California, need to specify that the standard must have an open-source reference implementation.
  • I know no slashdoter wanted this (too much anti-ms in the air), but think of the bright side.

    MS has the market by the balls with the only real competition being the WordPerfect suite...Personally I do not like it, but it is fairly widely used in School in Canada. Anything that allows Word documents to be a bit easier to convert to other formats is a good thing.
  • so... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tom (822)
    how much did Lisa get paid for her efforts? Was it cash or "perks"?

    Yeah, mod me flamebait. I'd prefer having that checked anyways, even if just to be sure there was no foul play. With MS, the safe assumption is that someone involved didn't play by the rules.
  • by Spikeles (972972) on Monday March 12, 2007 @07:06PM (#18324343)
    Having read TFA and the PDF of the ECMA responses [computerworld.com] to the complaints, i can see why they decided to fast-track it, many of the complaints by countries are thoroughly debunked as misunderstandings of the specification. The rest are supposed to be resolved during the 5 month process.

    As for TFA, they started out talking about fast-tracking the standard, then went on about totally unrelated and unsubstantiated stories about intimidation.

    I may be flamed for it, but i call FUD on the part of Groklaw for this "story", the process is working as intended.
    • by grcumb (781340) on Monday March 12, 2007 @08:09PM (#18325253) Homepage Journal

      Having read TFA and the PDF of the ECMA responses to the complaints, i can see why they decided to fast-track it, many of the complaints by countries are thoroughly debunked as misunderstandings of the specification.

      That's fine, but it only takes one complaint ('contradiction' in ECMA parlance) to stop the process, and there was one such provided by three separate national bodies. It stated the objection, raised elsewhere in this thread, that elements in the standard such as autoSpaceLikeWord95, which basically state, 'do things like we did in this version of this application', are contradictory to the the very essence of a document standard.

      ECMA's response is not at all satisfactory. First, they provide the self-serving argument that they're reproducing the state of the art, then they say that they can throw in any missing details later in the process, then they conclude with a statement that is patently absurd:

      As already discussed, the OpenXML committee chose to take a different route in defining document settings. If, however, it is decided that more documentation should be provided on the elements in question, or if the elements should be removed from the standard, that is a more appropriate matter for the 5-month ballot, and is not, in fact, a contradiction.

      We can sum this up as 'We accept that nobody has ever done this before, but we don't think that contradicts other standards. Anyway, even if it does, let's just agree to talk about this later.' Ultimately, ECMA is saying, 'Whatever faults may exist, even if they're unprecedented, let's just get on with it. We'll figure things out as we go.' That is hardly what one would expect of any self-respecting standards body.

    • by segedunum (883035)

      Having read TFA and the PDF of the ECMA responses to the complaints, i can see why they decided to fast-track it, many of the complaints by countries are thoroughly debunked as misunderstandings of the specification.

      The document you've linked to there simply repeats all of the lies and half-truths that Groklaw and elsewhere have pointed out. For example:

      Open and XML-conformant independence from proprietary formats and features

      There is certainly no evidence for independence from proprietary formats and

    • by iabervon (1971)
      Having read the ECMA response, I think that it should be taken as gospel. OpenXML should be ratified as a standard for "faithfully representing the majority of existing office documents in form and functionality", and it can therefore peacefully coexist with the use of ODF for all newly created documents. In fact, all of these countries are giving entirely inappropriate comments, because they seem to be thinking that this is a proposed standard for office documents, when it is actually a proposed standard f
  • by Skeith (931626) on Monday March 12, 2007 @08:49PM (#18325719)
    I remember awhile ago an employee at Opera pointed out that using html and css would create a much easier to adopt document standard. Since it is well understood and universally used. There are a half dozen html renderer's that could all be used to read content on all platforms.

    This has many advantages over everything that is being offered now. A universally viewable open well understood and easily learned document standard? That makes too much sense to go anywhere.
    • HTML and CSS are a great solution for screen displays, an OK solution for printing (assuming CSS 2.1). So, HTML/CSS would be a great solution for presentation software. But they are not particularly good at expressing structured documents like a spreadsheets, relational data and rich text documents. I don't seem how HTML tables would be a natural starting point for a spreadsheet, for example.

      The original use of HTML was to create links to rich content, which in the case of CERN would be things like post

  • Microsoft have already worked with standards...

    Office 97 saved Word 95/6.0 documents as RTF - and that is as close to a standard as Microsoft will ever get...
  • MS Windows is POSIX compliant as well, though in practise, you need Cygwin for any POSIX programs. Just like the POSIX trick, the standardization is just to get a tick mark on government RFPs.

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