Microsoft, Massachusetts and open document formats

A lot of fuss is being made of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ move towards mandating open document formats. I can understand the desire to make sure that government documents remain readable for the long haul – who wants to try to open the Declaration of Independence a hundred years later only to get a message … Continue reading “Microsoft, Massachusetts and open document formats”

A lot of fuss is being made of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ move towards mandating open document formats.

I can understand the desire to make sure that government documents remain readable for the long haul – who wants to try to open the Declaration of Independence a hundred years later only to get a message like “Windows cannot open this file”? (well hopefully we’ll have something better by then).

On the other hand, this is being widely interpreted as an anti-Microsoft move. Apparently the Commonwealth is requiring documents be in either Adobe PDF format or the recently approved OASIS Standard OpenDocument format.

Something seems really wrong here to me – Microsoft announced in June that the next version of Office will use their new XML formats as the default file format, and that those formats will be well documented and royalty free. And they’re walking the walk on that front. While these XML formats are not real standards, debated and approved in open forums, at least it gives some hope that documents created in them will be able to be decoded in the far distant future regardless of the fate of the particular software that created them.

Microsoft’s support for it’s XML formats seem more open to me than Adobe’s support for PDF, although it’s far newer.

This move seems to have technology religion overtones to me – and while I’ve been a frequent critic of some of Microsoft’s technologies and business practices, this seems like one area where they’re doing something that is more open than many, and I think they should be encouraged to do more of it.

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