Media release 2 April 2008
FSFE concerned about quality of standardisation process
Today the International Standards Organisation (ISO) approved
Microsoft's Office OpenXML format as ISO/IEC standard 29500 despite
severe technical and legal concerns with the specification that have
been raised by various parties.
"FSFE published its 'Six questions to national standardisation bodies'
before the September 2nd vote last year.  Considering the statements
about progress made on MS-OOXML, one would have hoped that at least one
of these questions enjoyed a satisfactory response," states FSFE's
German Deputy country coordinator Matthias Kirschner.
He continues: "Unfortunately that is not the case. Issues like the
'Converter Hoax'  and the 'Questions on Open Formats'  are still
equally valid. As the 'Deprecated before use'  and 'Interoperability
woes with OOXML'  documents demonstrate, MS-OOXML interoperability is
severely limited in comparison to Open Standards. In addition to these
issues, there are the legal concerns that were raised by various
"Technologically speaking, the state of IS29500 is depressing," says
Marko Milenovic of FSFE's Serbian Team and co-chair of the Serbian
technical committee on DIS29500. "In large parts it is low quality
technical prose that fails to use the normative terminology mandated by
ISO/IEC's guidelines. We've been told to wait for the maintenance
process for MS-OOXML to become usable. That ISO would knowingly approve
a dysfunctional specification is disillusioning."
FSFE vice-president Jonas Öberg states: "Governments have to start
asking themselves what the ISO seal of approval really means. As
demonstrated by the MPEG standards, it never meant that something
qualifies as a meaningful 'Open Standard.'"
Öberg continues: "Now it seems that ISO could be the wrong forum for
standards development in information technology in general. It seems to
work too slowly or too poorly to make the ISO brand meaningful in the IT
world. We'll have to see whether ISO can repair its own processes enough
to become a meaningful participant."
"Governments that seek to gain control over their own data and ensure
long-term archival of public records independently from any specific
vendor will need to establish other criteria in their public
procurement," concludes Georg Greve, FSFE's president. "Programs like
'Certified Open' that seek to assess the actual interoperability and
independence are likely to play a larger role in the future." 
About the Free Software Foundation Europe:
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) is a non-profit
non-governmental organisation active in many European countries and
involved in many global activities. Access to software determines
participation in a digital society. To secure equal participation in
the information age, as well as freedom of competition, the Free
Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) pursues and is dedicated to the
furthering of Free Software, defined by the freedoms to use, study,
modify and copy. Founded in 2001, creating awareness for these
issues, securing Free Software politically and legally, and giving
people Freedom by supporting development of Free Software are central
issues of the FSFE.
You can reach the FSFE switchboard from:
Belgium: +32 2 747 03 57 ext 408
Germany: +49 700 373 38 76 73 ext 408
Sweden: +46 31 7802160 ext 408
Switzerland: +41 43 500 03 66 ext 408
UK: +44 29 200 08 17 7 ext 408
Further information: http://fsfeurope.org