tecosystems

Open vs Standard: My Definitions

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One of the interesting byproducts of last week’s Microsoft Office Open XML Formats announcement has been the ensuing discussion on the definitions of base terms such as open, standard and format. Given the volume of email and comments I’ve received on these topics, I thought it would be useful to clarify exactly what I mean when I use those respective terms.

Let’s start with open. Several of the emails I’ve received have taken me to task for using the term “open” to describe Microsoft’s new formats. A bunch of the IBMers, for example, seem inclined to define open as not just publically available, but industry-wide and multi-vendor in nature. See Bob Sutor, Bobby Wolf Woolf, or Tom Glover. I don’t agree with that notion; open to me – in the context of discussions around formats for interchange – connotates nothing more than a fully documented specification that can be observed and designed to by external parties with full fidelity, preferably under royalty free terms. Given this, I have no difficulty describing the new Office formats as open, just as I’d use the same term to describe Adobe’s PDF. Are the new Office Open XML Formats open in the same way that open source is open? Hardly, but given the intrinsic differences between document formats and source code, I think it’s inevitable that the word open will have different connotations in the different contexts.

Of course, as the IBMers and others have pointed out, the term open is currently being applied to efforts which are not participatory by nature. But if we’re looking for a label to distinguish multi-vendor backed efforts from those controlled by a single party, I’d argue that we already such a term: standard. A standard is just what it implies: something multiple (even competing) parties can agree on, and implement independent of one another. We have numerous standards bodies that exist solely to govern these sorts of multi-vendor efforts: ISO, OASIS, the W3C, etc. Unfortunately, there are standards that not everyone agrees on, but is compelled to comply with because of dominant marketshare. These are referred to as de facto standards, and the Microsoft Word binary format is one example of this. As long as we can all agree to recognize the difference between de facto standards and honest standards, however, this should not be an insurmountable problem.

But either way let’s go back to our definition of open, defined (simply) as publically available and documented, then apply that to our definition of standard as a vendor neutral, participatory body. The end result? An open standard. Does the Open Document Format qualify for this term? Certainly. How about the Office Open XML Formats? No, it fails as a standard. It’s still by my definition an open format, but it’s not an open standard. If I was an enterprise buyer with particular concerns about interoperability, total cost of ownership or longevity, what would I choose? An open standard. Does that mean that the Office XML format isn’t open? I don’t believe so.

Anyhow, I know many out there – the IBMers in particular – won’t agree with this classification, but I wanted everyone following the discussions in this space (I highly recommend checking out the comment trails here or here) to understand why and when I use the terms open, standard and format so that at least the context for such claims is understood. Feel free to poke holes in my definitions as well; I’m willing to be persuaded if I’m wrong on this score.

Update: Bill’s proposing an interesting compromise here. Being halfway between my take (inclusion is part of the standard term) and some others (open requires inclusion), it’s definitely worth a look. I’m don’t know how well two dimensional arguments like Bill’s map to terminology, but it’s a start.

14 comments

  1. I agree with your terminology and most of the characterizations. I sortof choked on "As long as we can all agree to recognize the difference between de facto standards and honest standards". Maybe "official" or "independent organization" rather than "honest"?.

    But there's also a further distinction among official standards: "de jure" ones from organizations recognized by international treaty and (IIRC) to which conformance can be legally mandated, and those from industry associations that have no legally recognized status. There are only a handful of de jure standards organizations. ISO (with which ANSI is affiliated?) UN/CEFACT. and ITU are the main ones relevant to the IT industry. Most of the others we usually talk about — including W3C, OASIS, WS-I, etc. — are not. Instead they are industry associations which get credibility by serving as a venue in which vendors and users can come together to issue what are essentially consensus recommendations to address matters of mutual concern.

    In Web reality, there's not a whole lot of practical difference between real standards such as ISO 8879 (SGML) or the outputs of ISO/IEC JTC1/SC32/WG3 (SQL); W3C Recommendations such as XML, XSLT, etc.; and informal but documented specifications such as SAX or the numerous flavors of RSS. There are plenty of "real" standards with no mindshare or market reality (ISO HyTime and DSSSL come to mind), and at least a couple of non-standards such as RSS that are pervasive. It all comes down to the circular logic that people support widely supported "standards" and few people besides evangelists with an axe to grind care much about the precise definitions.

  2. To be used credibly in this context 'open' also needs to connote free of proprietary dependenies, and MS XML as implemented in Office 2003 and as described for Office 12 coming, when?, in 2006 does not meet the criteria. It has license limitations — albeit RAND — which may change at the will of the vendor as well as promiscuous binary potentialities designed to permit developers to tie office documents to Microsoft server and portal products. The result would be .docx files in the store which contain parts that are inaccessible from programs which are not MS Office or MS-controlled. This is far from a reasonable man's definition of 'open.' Likewise to describe Adobe PDF as an open format — despite its high quality — is playing fast & loose with the English language, using poetic license & inviting of ridicule.

    There are degrees of open-ness. Contrasting these XML concepts of Microsoft's with the reference open implementation that's available today in OpenOffice2's OpenDocument leaves Microsoft's compromised implementation and press release description wanting within a reasonable person's conception of what open means. Organizations and governments are in the process of selecting and writing policy for a file format to standardize for common document creation and processing. The chosen format will be the one which does no violence to the term 'open.' The chosen format will be an 'open standard' which has a vibrant development community around it, the specification, code and implementation are open to view, its specification is governed by a pubic standards body, there is freedom to meet or join such a meeting on behalf of the specification, there is the value of peer review, and so on.

    One shudders that so many people misunderstand and, further, misrepresent concepts as you do of such importance to the efficiency of our personal, regional and national innovation infrastructure.

  3. Mike: good points all around, although I don't think I can change the "honest" designation, given that I don't see de facto standards as genuine standards. They're not intrinsically bad or evil, but neither are they the product of an evenhanded decision making process.

    But you also make the good point that being what I would term an honest standard is in and of itself no guarantee for success. Only users can grant that.

    Sam: I appreciate the info, if not the tone. A few selected areas of pushback:

    "To be used credibly in this context 'open' also needs to connote free of proprietary dependenies, and MS XML as implemented in Office 2003 and as described for Office 12 coming, when?, in 2006 does not meet the criteria."

    Unsurprisingly, I don't agree. If OO.o, for example, is able to take the published specifications and conform to them across platforms, in my view that's open. Contrast that to the reverse engineering of previous Office binary formats – which were closed – and I think this position is defensible.

    "It has license limitations — albeit RAND — which may change at the will of the vendor as well as promiscuous binary potentialities designed to permit developers to tie office documents to Microsoft server and portal products."

    More specifics on your concerns re: promiscuous binary potentialities would be appreciated. As for the "change at the will of the vendor" bit, that's true, and the number 1 reason organizations should mandate an open standard rather than an open format.

    "Likewise to describe Adobe PDF as an open format — despite its high quality — is playing fast & loose with the English language, using poetic license & inviting of ridicule."

    Setting aside the flamebait in there, I'm able on Linux (as you no doubt are aware, given your firm's focus) to choose from a fairly wide variety of PDF supporting toolkits, from GPDF to Evince to XPDF to OO.o. That is made possible by a format that is at least to some degree open; it's not a standard, but the format is open and published and can be conformed to.

    "Contrasting these XML concepts of Microsoft's with the reference open implementation that's available today in OpenOffice2's OpenDocument leaves Microsoft's compromised implementation and press release description wanting within a reasonable person's conception of what open means."

    Perhaps. Or perhaps one's a standard, and one's just a format.

    "Organizations and governments are in the process of selecting and writing policy for a file format to standardize for common document creation and processing. The chosen format will be the one which does no violence to the term 'open.' The chosen format will be an 'open standard' which has a vibrant development community around it, the specification, code and implementation are open to view, its specification is governed by a pubic standards body, there is freedom to meet or join such a meeting on behalf of the specification, there is the value of peer review, and so on."

    I agree, and the open standard they are likely to choose is the ODF, given that it's the only one they can choose that qualifies for the label "open standard." In no way, shape or form have I argued that Microsoft's release qualifies for that designation, because it doesn't. ODF is and remains preferable to me, and if you look back a few posts you'll see that I've pushed MS to support it alongside their own format. But to describe MS's format as not open is, to me, not accurate given that sufficient information has been promised to make the format supportable cross-platform and cross-application set.

    P.S. Lay off the condescension next time. I'm cool with you not agreeing, but try and keep it constructive.

  4. Look, they're both just formats. They both have royalty-free patent-license conditions (one from Sun, the other from Microsoft).

    With regard to "standard," I think this is an inappropriate way to indicate industry or community contribution and support. I've seen ISO specifications that were the work of three people be issued. There was no broad industry anything involved. The term is confusing enough (especially with OASIS calling its specifications "OASIS Standards" — most standards bodies don't do that, and IETF, for example, requires industry adoption as the basis for elevating an in-use specification to "standard" status, usually after years of interoperability confirmation and established practice). So the term is already corrupted and your condition on it just doesn't differentiate anything in that already-murky cloud.

    I'm inclined to agree with Michael in this regard. His observations match my experience, going back to the original ASCII specification.

    Also, the conventional standards, even ANSI ones, are voluntary and it is not uncommon to fork a standard or for vendors to pick-and-choose features and private extensions. That's been a problem everywhere. I can see why that's not being encouraged for either of OASIS OfficeDocument and Microsoft Office XML Open Formats.

    So, what would be a better way to indicate that something is under some sort of commuhity stewardship, whether or not there is a czar (e.g., Sun on Java, Torvalds on Linux)?

  5. "With regard to "standard," I think this is an inappropriate way to indicate industry or community contribution and support. I've seen ISO specifications that were the work of three people be issued. There was no broad industry anything involved."

    it's an interesting point you raise, orcmid, but i think your letting exceptions define your rule. are there instances where standard does not indicate broad guidance and participation? most likely. what is more common, however? i'd argue strongly that the interpretation of standard as one that denotes a commonly held specification.

    i also doubt that Microsoft would see a positive response if they were to extrapolate from your viewpoint and assume that they could use the term standard with impunity, since it has been used to describe formats which are anything but standard.

    but let's assume for a moment that you're correct and the term standard is hopelessly corrupted: what are you offering as an alternative? how would you distinguish ODF from OOXF in terms of their descriptive labels?

  6. Perhaps we need an open standard to define "open" and "standard" πŸ™‚

  7. Well, I would call ODF an "OASIS Standard" because that's what OASIS calls it. I wouldn't call it anything more than that, especially since it is also patent-encumbered and apparently restricts derivative use.

    For Microsoft, they call it the Microsoft Office XML Open Format (with whichever permutation of words they finally settle on), and I would call it that.

    Other than that, I wonder if we are chasing a false distinction in search of a technical way to separate the bad guys from the good guys.

    Maybe it is more important to see the use cases that really matter, and determine which licenses support them and that allow them to be exercises without concern for running afoul of an IP or license restriction. And then there is the interchange/interoperability/interconvertability question for formats, and we could look at how easy/hard that is to accomplish and support.

    I was asking you if you had some term that would signify community stewardship. I think I would use just that to signify that a specification is a community product and maintained by some community process. I wouldn't use "standard" at all.

  8. Mike Champion makes some interesting points. He misses however the point of purpose that motivates and drives supporters of Open Source, Open Standards, and Open XML Technologies.

    The point of purpose i'm referring to is that these hordes of howling fanatics who champion truly transparent open access, open interaction, and open participation also believe that the Internet is everything. In the Age of the Internet, open interoperability is everything.

    If we were talking about a personal computer platform, where applications traditionally bind end user data and content to application specific file formats, there really is no need for MS XML. Microsoft could continue to best serve the interest of their shareholders by continuing with iron fisted control over binary file formats, platform specific inter dependencies, and platform specific interfaces.

    But if we are talking about universal Internet connectivity, communications, and collaborative computation, end users are best served by interfaces, methods, and protocols that provide open interoperability.

    Who in their right mind would ever trust Microsoft with open interoperability? Locking users in, binding data and content to platform and application specific dependencies and file formats, and using hidden system calls and reserved interfaces to provide MS applications with higher levels of integrated interoperability not available to competitors is at the heart of the Microsoft business model. The only time Microsoft ever compromises on this time tested business model is when the marketplace of end users force concessions. When that happens, our friends in Redmond roll out another time tested business practice affectionately known to all as "embrace, extend, extinguish".

    Would Microsoft like to own the Internet, or control all Windows users access and implementation of Internet technologies? Honestly Mike, it's embarrassing to bring up the obvious. I refuse to believe that after years of fighting off open, Internet based interoperability, even putting his entire company on the line, doing whatever it takes, illegal, deceitful, or just plain reprehensible, to stop Netscape and Java from carving out some open Internet space on the Windows desktop, that suddenly Bill Gates has now become an open Internet convert?

    Someone has to show me a whole lot more than the current MS XML reference documents before i'll believe that Chairman Bill has been raptured up into the global heavens of open interoperability. The guys not even repentant.

    The truth of the mater is that everyone and everything is well on the way of finding their digital expression, and from there it's on to the Internet. The history of computing has been as much about finding digital expression for information and information processes as it has been about silicon, operating systems, and layers of applications. In retrospect, that history was in slow motion compared to what happened once the Internet hit the scene. Near overnight we've gone from digital processing as assisting our real world efforts, to lives of transparently moving in and out of a digital universe. The Internet isn't just a universal platform of connectivity, communications, and collaborative computing. It's the foundation of a new civilization where our digital lives become the drivers of the other, more traditional reality.

    So we have this ongoing identity crisis, where all the issues of open interoperability become of serious consequence. Is your computational machine a personal computer or an Internet systems interface device? Unplug that router and you'll be surprised at how soon and how clear the answer to the above question becomes.

    If we're talking about the Internet platform instead of the Windows personal computer platform, the dimensions of open interoperability are described in terms of Open Standards, Open Interfaces, Open Communications and Messaging Protocols, Open (portable) Run Time Engines and Libraries, and Open XML Technologies (including file formats).

    Here's an important point to consider. As Joel Spolsky once famously said, "The Internet is the computer, and HTML the API".

    Well, that statement applied when the Internet was a simple platform of connectivity and exchange. With advent of Open XML Technologies, the Internet is set to become a full fledged global platform of collaborative computing. This is a big leap, greatly diminishing the importance of the proprietary Windows API's. Open Internet protocols and methods are finding their way into all applications and services, spanning an exploding ecosystem of Internet ready machines that includes all devices, desktops, servers, and server clusters. We can amend Joel's insight to now say that, "The Internet is the computer, and XML the API."

    Personally i love the statement by Hossein Eslambolchi, AT&T's president of global networking technology services, chief technology officer, and CIO. At his recent Interop 2005 keynote, he said that, ""IP will eat everything," meaning all systems and networks will eventually use Internet-based protocols.

    And then there's Jeffrey Moore's comments at the recent OSBC where he insisted that there is no software application or service under development anywhere in the world that didn't fully embrace Internet protocols.

    We could on forever with similar quotes, but i think this is enough to make my point.

    So the argument over why an XML file format is important has little if not nothing to with the Windows platform, or Microsoft's proprietary productivity environment, or even interoperability between Microsoft's proprietary productivity environment and Microsoft's proprietary but rapidly expanding suite of collaboration servers. It has nothing to do with the highly integrated Windows XP stack where a dazzling entanglement of interfaces, interdependencies, and cleverly extended open protocols bolt the entire sprawl of Microsoft efforts together.

    No, XML is important because it's the future of the Internet. And don't kid yourself. Chairman Bill knows only to well that Windows users want to connect, communicate, and collaboratively compute over the Internet.

    So let's judge MS XML and the arbitrarily restrictive MS XML Reference License not in terms of the proprietary and closed Windows platform, but rather in terms of how people are really going to implement MS XML. That is, to facilitate open interoperability across the Internet. Let's focus on where the value proposition to end users lies. We need to focus on how open and openly interoperable MS XML is in the context of Internet connectivity and collaborative computing.

    To argue that somehow MS XML can be said to be "open" because it works for Microsoft on the Microsoft platform is to miss the point of why XML is so important to begin with.

    As far as the "legacy is difficult" excuse for not participating in the OASIS OpenDoc XML technical committee, most of that work has already been accomplished by the reverse engineering wizards at OpenOffice.org. Excepting for formulas, macros, scripting and presentation behaviors, the fidelity of transforming MS legacy files into OpenDoc XML is extraordinary. Takes me all of three seconds to convert a legacy doc. And there are OOo tools available that will automagically convert gigabytes of docs if that's what you need.

    If this high level of fidelity could be achieved through reverse engineering, where's the difficulty so mountainous that Microsoft could not contribute to OpenDoc XML or participate? This excuse is technically so shallow and lame someone at Microsoft should have asked the marketing department for help before publicly embarrassing themselves. Any OpenOffice.org user will tell you that for the most part, the legacy difficulties of transforming into OpenDoc XML have been taken care of. Don't believe it? Download OOo and see for yourself. At no cost but that of opening your eyes.

    There is another matter that should not be left out of this discussion of what is open and what is not, and why open interoperability and open XML technologies are so important. The matter goes to the heart of efficient organization.

    It's been mentioned that committees, such as the open standards OASIS OpenDoc XML TC, are slow and unresponsive. That because of these inefficiencies, Microsoft had to do their own thing, the difficulties of legacy conversions and all that. IMHO, this anthropomorphic view is exactly the conclusion of what years of corporate, corporate consortia, and democratic government organization observance and participation would come to. But what has that got to do with the Internet ecosystem and emerging digital civilization?

    The truth is that the Internet organizational model succeeds exactly because it is not subject to the committeetides afflictions of the past. They refer to the universal operating system as "Linux, Inc.", but in fact there is little if any similarity between the Internet – Open Source model of organization and the hapless top down corporate models that OSS is threatening to replace.

    Noted corporate expert Peter Drucker once famously said that for over 250 years, the corporation was premier model of organizing people, resources and finances for profit. Even governments envision themselves as corporate styled decision making structures. Except for all that troublesome democracy and constitutional stuff.

    There are quiet indications that the traditional corporate model has perhaps finally given way to the forces of creative destruction. You know, the "chaos theory", where organizations reach the ends of complexity management when chaos can no longer be contained by the original organizational structure. This brings on collapse. And out of the collapse emerges a new organizational structure capable of vastly more levels of complexity.

    For twenty years there have been volumes of indications that top down pyramid style division based corporate structures are giving way to new organizational models such as the wheel, spoke and hub model that GE practices. I once heard then GE CEO Jack Welch describe the hub part of this model as the place where management organizes their efforts to supply the workers at the edge of the wheel with all the resources they need. Management's job was not to make productivity and sales decisions. It was to get the resources of finance, product, supplies, and people skills out to the edge of the wheel where the real decisions and transactions were taking place. Authority and the responsibility to make the right decisions had been pushed far out to the very edge of the wheel where the heated friction of collaborative commerce took place in the most efficient manner possible. No one residing at the hub had the foresight to predict with any kind of accuracy or fidelity what was needed at the point of the next possible sale.

    Now come the Internet model of organization, or what we otherwise call Open Source Community model. It's loosely collaborative and self organizing. Yet the evidence is overwhelming that this is a far more efficient way to organize people, resources, and finances for the purposes of solving complex problems and finding solutions to extraordinary complex issues. The Internet model of organizing is cracking the most complex problems mankind has ever been challenged with. Like the human genome. Like Linux. Like the entire open source community fire hose of digital computation solutions. OSS is a firehose of software the likes of which no corporate magistrate has ever imagined possible. No corporate entity would dare tackle this level of complexity management. yet it's routine in the world of Open Source.

    Try out this recent BusinessWeek article, , to see just how far reaching the Internet model of organizing is. We are way beyond open source software, and now into the powerful rise of collaborative communities whip sawing reality as no one ever imagined possible.

    So anytime someone starts dissing open standards committees my first reaction is to ask the question as to which organizational model are they using? If it's a corporate organizational model, the criticisms are probably well deserved. Damn, let me be first in line to flush them.

    If however it's an Internet model, fully leveraging the inclusiveness, transparent access, and global participation of open source community structures, then i'm thinking that i'm talking to a Neanderthal. A relic. A time traveler who never got out of first gear and got old long before his eyes could ever be opened. Someone who can't see the forest for all the trees, and is certain to chain saw off their leg.

    On the OASIS OpenDoc XML Technical Committee we run with Open XML Technologies. And we run as fast as the W3C can get them operable. Sometimes, as with XForms, SVG, and SMiL, we run even faster. But in every case, we reach out to these other Open XML efforts, let them know where were at and what we need, and then let them apply their expertise to move us all forward. We manage complexity by engaging the entire ecosystem in ways that perhaps only open source afficionados understand. But for us it's routine. And it works.

    If you judge an Open Standards TC or Workgroup by it's registered membership, you will miss the entire phenomenon of the open source – Internet hive. If you cast us against the failed committee efforts of the past, you will miss entirely the magic of our Internet bound DNA. If you miss our arterial connections to the beating heart of core open source communities, who road test and prove every element, every attribute, and every behavior before it hits the specification, then you miss entirely how we have already done exactly what Microsoft is promising to deliver some 18 months from now.

    We're not just the tip of the spear. We're the tip of a missile bus packed with nuclear war heads. But hey, nice chatting with you Michael πŸ™‚

    ~ge~

    OpenOffice.org volunteer representing the community on the OASIS OpenDoc XML TC

  9. Sorry. The BusinessWeek link to, "The Power of Us":
    http://tinyurl.com/d8vpn

    ~ge~

  10. Stephen- If you receive my comment as condescending, then I can only try harder now and in future to use tone to produce change in opinion and action more effectively. I welcome a mature discussion and if you're as willing to grow as I am then surely we can get you to think twice again about your flexible conception of 'open.'

    Calling either MS XML implementaton — Office2003's or Office12's — 'open' is soft, relativistic and pushes my buttons for several reasons. Primarily, it's because I see the Microsoft equilibrium state today as a social phenomenon. Among the supports of this scaffold, no matter how ricketty, is the repetition througout the media of false or convenient memes that come from the Microsoft playbook and press release. When you call MS XML 'open' it can only reflect that you are mistaken about it or that you're using false ideas designed with intent to negate or disparage their competition by inference. That's not your job.

  11. > When you call MS XML 'open' it can only reflect that you are mistaken about it

    There's no such thing as "MS XML." It's just plain XML. It's true that Word and Excel have proprietary but documented and licenseable default formats, and we've debated whether they can be considered "open" or not. But some users of Word and Excel and all users of Infopath use custom schemas of their own choice, so in that case the MS Office XML capabilities are undeniably "open".

    Few 3rd party developers have expressed much affection for the Office 2003 default XML formats, but people are making them work for interop. There are quite a few success stories (the published ones are at http://www.microsoft.com/resources/casestudies/) and at least one independent book http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/officexml/ on the technical details. I will bet that the Office 12 schemas will be more mature 3rd-party friendly, but I have no real information.

    I have no issue with people who want to define "open" differently than the MS marketing people do. I do think it's important to keep in mind that lots of real companies are exploiting the various MS XML products to integrate their diverse desktop, middleware, and database applications from multiple vendors and on different platforms. That's what XML is good for, and calling it "MS XML" doesn't change that reality.

  12. Wait a second Mike. The Microsoft XML Reference License insists in a very legal and threatening way that there is in fact a "MS XML". And you better make damn sure all your work with MS XML formats carries the MS legal mark. Open XML doesn't have similar requirements! Open XML doesn't insist on encumbrances, restrictions and other warnings of patent infringement risks.

    I for one wish Open XML Technologies did have an Open XML Reference license. The Open XML GPL. Now that would have solved much of the patent and cloning (embrace, extend, extinguish) problems we see today.

    Drop the MS XML Reference License and we might be able to have a respectable argument about whether MS XML is "Open" or not. Drop the MS XML Reference License and we can discuss embedded binary keys and other application – platform specific dependencies certain to compromise any effort to call MS XML "open". Without the MS XML References License, you would certainly be in a better position to argue your points. But even then, "open" in the sense of the Age of the Internet understands "open", would not apply. Sorry Mike, but those MS application and MS platform specific dependencies are a problem. That's why we call it "MS XML".

    I would also argue that letting consumers create custom defined schemas does not qualify MS XML as "open". You're really stretching here Mike. Yes, OneNOTE is an application that enables users to create custom defined schema templates. There is however one thing that separates OneNOTE from the hundreds of Proprietary and Open XML tools that do the same thing. OneNOTE has a graphical interface for mapping custom defined schemas to MS XML, and binding elements to different functions. It's very nice, very well done. and extremely user friendly.

    We, however, do the same thing in OpenOffice.org using an Open XML Technology, XForms. With OOo's implementation of XForms we can bind to any forms object data sources (local or Internet), web services, scripted behaviors, other objects, and the logic intelligence for routing and processing. The difference is, our implementation is open, uncompromised, unencumbered, and completely transparent. There are no platform of application specific dependencies and interlocking interfaces.

    Until Microsoft cleans things up (if ever they do), this is all marketing nonsense meant to confuse the public into thinking that Microsoft is no longer locking their information to the Windows upgrade treadmill. Until they drop the MS XML Reference License, it's all marketing nonsense aimed at fooling the public into thinking that Microsoft has finally changed, and now miraculously supports open interoperability with competing products and services.

    That'll be the day,
    ~ge~

  13. 'The Microsoft XML Reference License insists in a very legal and threatening way that there is in fact a "MS XML".'

    Could you point out the specific language you are referring to? (BTW, the only hit Google finds for the literal "Microsoft XML Reference License" was written by Gary Edwards.) I don't see anything like this in the Office Schema reference license, but IANAL and would gladly retract my assertion that there is no such thing as "MS XML" if the lawyers assert that there is. I've learned not to argue with them πŸ™

    I think you mean "InfoPath" not "OneNote" as something that does something similar to XForms, right? That's another interesting tangent to the "what is a real standard" thread. XForms is a Recommendation with little de facto reality on the ground so far. It is clearly open, but it it a "standard" in any practical sense? My impression so far is that the world doesn't see XForms as offering enough real benefit over HTML forms+script in the browser to make it worth the trouble. Maybe OO.o and Firefox support will give it more mindshare, we shall see.

    Reasonable people can argue that MS should be more open, less obsessed with intellectual property, less aggressively competitive, unconditionally supportive of everything the W3C or OASIS produces, whatever. I don't think anyone can credibly argue that it doesn't use XML to "support open interoperability with competing products and services." That's what XML is all about, and MS has invested heavily in XML since it was formulated. You don't have to think that MS does this out of benevolence — *all* enterprise vendors support XML because data interoperability is a absolute necessity for their customers.

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