Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

ISO Relevance Questioned After OOXML Appeals Fail

kdawson posted about 6 years ago | from the burning-down-the-house dept.

Software 236

Cowards Anonymous passes along an Australian PCWorld piece that begins "Countries whose appeals were dismissed regarding the ISO/IEC's approval of Microsoft's OOXML as an international standard are questioning the judgment and relevance of the ISO/IEC and the standards they approve. In a statement made at the Congresso Internacional Sociedade e Governo Electronico (CONSEGI) 2008 conference, representatives from three of the four countries that appealed against an April 1 vote to approve OOXML as a standard said they are 'no longer confident' in the ability of both the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission to be vendor-neutral and open when it comes to setting technology standards." Here is the statement signed by South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Cuba. The countries won't pursue further opposition to OOXML.

cancel ×

236 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

ISO (0)

adpsimpson (956630) | about 6 years ago | (#24857183)

Maybe it's time to sell it off in a garage sale? I know one company that's already put in a good offer for half the countries.

Re:ISO (4, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 years ago | (#24857225)

Funny, there are some Chinese guys here that sell ISOs in some sort of garage sale...

Re:ISO (0, Offtopic)

douglaid (897645) | about 6 years ago | (#24857757)

In the USA, it is the other way around. The commerce controls the Government. Just as the RIAA gets what it wants through Congress. Just as the oil interests killed the development of a hybrid car a while back. Just as in a report I read, a vendor of a deadly contaminated product controlled the Town Council, including the health inspector, and kept selling the stuff and killing people. Life is cheap in the U.S. You don't know whether the next person you meet is going to turn a gun on you.

How did the USA vote on the appeals?

Re:ISO (4, Funny)

upside (574799) | about 6 years ago | (#24858395)

If you think about it really hard, it may just be that Mr. Opportunist was making the exact same frikkin point but in a humorous and less labored way.

Mod me down but I couldn't help myself.

Does ISO still matter?? (5, Insightful)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 6 years ago | (#24857203)

Really, I really mean this question.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857291)

Really, I really mean this question.

Why? Who else is there to replace them? Or are you advocating a no-standards-free-for-all?

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (4, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 years ago | (#24857313)

Yes. Yes it does.

Imagine you know jack about technology (like, let's say, the average CEO). Then you have to turn to someone to tell you whether something or someone is capable of accomplishing some task. So what do you do? You start looking for standards, check what those standards describe, find out if it applies to you and look for tools that work according to that standard.

You can't decide whether the tool you choose is really "good". You can't decide whether someone who happens to be certified according to some certs can actually do something (I've seen ISO 27001 people who didn't know jack about real security problems, you can't certify something that changes faster than you can slap a standard together). But when you don't know you have to believe (ask the religious guys, they know best about that). And CEOs tend to believe industry standards. Whether those standards actually "work" or are arbitrary doesn't matter. Well, it does matter, but they don't really have a choice. It's "as good as it gets" for them.

Compatibility is a huge issue in today's economy. You have to be able to send your documents to your partners and expect them to be able to use them. Standardized formats play a big role in this game. Those formats may be bad, dated, horribly insecure and a vendor lock-in, but they are standardized and thus compatible with the companies you deal with.

That's what CEOs care about.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 6 years ago | (#24857483)

I agree that you are describing reality, but this is exactly why ISO has now lost credibility in the technical community.

If a standards body acts only as a known library where you know you can go to look up useful information — a channel for communication between interested parties, if you like — then it is useful for compatibility, avoiding reinventing the wheel, and similar laudable goals. But if being an "ISO standard" confers some sort of status, making some sort of statement about the value or relevance of the standardised item, then there are standards (in the ethical sense) that must be upheld for the ISO standards to mean anything. One of those needs to be independent, peer-reviewed audit, and that clearly hasn't happened here.

Most CEOs are not stupid, but most of them probably are naive on technical matters, because that's not what they do. If CEOs cannot trust the technical merit of ISO standards then ISO is a liability, because it gives a false sense of security.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (2, Insightful)

Magic5Ball (188725) | about 6 years ago | (#24857901)

ISO may have lost credibility in the vast part of the pseudo-technical community who doesn't know what standards-setting organizations do.

A standards organization doesn't force any individual or organization to adopt or follow any standard. It offers one (or more) standards that individuals or organizations can adopt in its processes/products, such that other individuals or organizations can rely on a basic level of documentation, interoperability or performance being present in the standards-marked processes/products, should they choose to follow the standard.

The existence of a particular standard for gravel-based personal flotation device doesn't mean that such things are a good business or technical idea, just that a significant number of different stakeholders claim to want to interoperate in the space of gravel-based flotation devices. The existence of that standard does not preempt the proposal of other standards for gravel-based personal flotation devices, nor does it compel any entity to make things described by that standard.

In this regard, nothing which has happened with OOXML has changed the fundamental nature of standards bodies in their lack of prescriptive abilities.

This standard is just like all others when used as intended ("we can make these standards-based assumptions about this vendor/product"), and when abused ("these standards are a substitute for professional or business judgment and management skills").

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 6 years ago | (#24857991)

ISO may have lost credibility in the vast part of the pseudo-technical community who doesn't know what standards-setting organizations do.

Ah, yes, those of us objecting are all stupid and/or ignorant.

It offers one (or more) standards that individuals or organizations can adopt in its processes/products, such that other individuals or organizations can rely on a basic level of documentation, interoperability or performance being present in the standards-marked processes/products, should they choose to follow the standard.

Exactly. And in the case of OOXML, other individuals or organizations can't adopt it or rely on a basic level of interoperability. AIUI, Microsoft themselves don't actually implement the variation of OOXML that has been recognised by ISO. Given how ill-specified parts of that OOXML "standard" are, no-one else has any chance at all.

And while in theory you would be right about what standards bodies are for, there is no point sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that endorsement by a major standards body such as ISO doesn't have other implications. Many governments require that their work is consistent with standards, for example, and any contractor who doesn't use the appropriate "standardised" software may find themselves out of luck when seeking any future government-funded work.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (5, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 6 years ago | (#24857507)

Standardized formats play a big role in this game. Those formats may be bad, dated, horribly insecure and a vendor lock-in, but they are standardized and thus compatible with the companies you deal with.

But standardized formats are meaningless when they cannot be implemented, not even by the company who bought and paid for the format to become a standard.

They are going to say that OOXML is an ISO standard, but their own products don't follow the ISO standard.

So OOXML is not compatible. Not even with Microsoft's own products.

Since ISO just approved an incompatible, useless standard, what does that make them?

You got it.

Useless.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (-1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | about 6 years ago | (#24857859)

ISO knew nothing was compatible with it yet. Sometimes all current formats are inadequate, so you need to make a new, better format that people can then create products to meet. Now that it is a standard, companies can work to make products compatible with it. And for what it's worth, I believe Microsoft did claim they were going to release a free plugin/update for Office 2007 to save and open OOXML files.

(I am not claiming by any stretch of the imagination that the ISO legitimately chose OOXML as a standard, there are many other reasons as to why they should not have...my point is just that your argument for why they are 'useless' is flawed.)

What's new there, though? (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | about 6 years ago | (#24858379)

A lot of people act as if ISO was

A) some kind of guarantee that it'll be implemented 100% accurately and compatibly by everyone, and there is absolutely no room for wiggling in incompatible details, and

B) it's the first time this happens.

Hello? Both are false.

As a trivial example, C is an ISO standard. ISO/IEC 9899, to be precise. When was the last one you saw two C compiler implementations, from two different vendors and preferrably on different architectures, that were 100% compatible with each other or the standard? It's trivial to produce code that produces wildly different results, and offten incorrect results, based on unspecified details like endianness or word size.

Or take paper sizes. The ISO 216 defines paper sizes like A4, and multiples. Has that stopped anyone from selling "letter" sized paper instead? Or it's trivial to produce paper which is technically A4, but will jam your printer anyway, e.g., because it's much thicker than normal and the standard says nothing about that third dimension.

Most of the ISO standards are just guidelines, nothing more.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (3, Insightful)

db32 (862117) | about 6 years ago | (#24858351)

You realize you just made the argument for why ISO doesn't matter right? CEOs need to be able to trust these things, compatability, interoperability, etc. When the standards can be outright purchased as they were here, then that whole process breaks down, and nobody should be trusting anything with an ISO stamp.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857317)

ISO doesn't, the ISO standards do.

Pretty soon I imagine the countries signing the petition will say they're forming their own standards body(incompatible of course) because they want to have a "cleaner process" news at eleven.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (5, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | about 6 years ago | (#24857739)

ISO doesn't, the ISO standards do.

How can the ISO standard matter anymore if you can just pay someone off to get your own?

ISO used to be a known quantity, if it was ISO then it was sensible, fair, interoperable, open, etc. Now that ooxml has stormed the gates, as they say, "one bad apple will spoil the barrel". The approval of ooxml has turned ISO from "these are all good standards" to "most of these are good standards", and that's forever. ISO standards are no longer unquestioned..

We used to ask "so is that an ISO standard?" But now we will start asking "so is that a GOOD ISO standard?" The first time you sell out is the greatest damage to your reputation. It knocks you off the pedestal and tosses you down among the riff-raff.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (1)

bondsbw (888959) | about 6 years ago | (#24857329)

Does ISO still matter??

Yes. FTA: "What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks."

They are only "re-evaluating" the relevance of ISO/IEC in government use. It says nothing about how companies in those countries will continue to rely on ISO standards, and it really only applies to those countries (for now).

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (4, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | about 6 years ago | (#24857821)

Translation: We don't want to do this. It's a bunch of headache. We liked being able to rely on ISO/IEC, it made our life easier. But we've seen things recently that make us wonder if we have any choice but to find alternatives. Needless to say, we're not going to make any rash statements before we know our options, but honestly, if this wasn't a really big deal, we never would have got off our asses enough to make a statement about this issue in the first place. ISO matters in that we miss them, and we're pissed off that they let us down, but not in the sense that we feel secure enough to continue using their standards, because we don't.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (3, Insightful)

larry bagina (561269) | about 6 years ago | (#24857481)

Maybe fast-tracking is the problem. Normally, a standard exists because something has been in use for a while and gained acceptance (a de facto standard) or because relevant parties sit down and agree to it. If the standard was created elsewhere (eg, C++), it makes sense for ISO to defer to them. But to just approve OOXML (and OpenOffice XML) is the wrong approach. They should have sat down and created a new ISO Document XML format with input from MS, Open Office, Apple, IBM, or any other relevant parties.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (5, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | about 6 years ago | (#24858095)

They should have sat down and created a new ISO Document XML format with input from MS, Open Office, Apple, IBM, or any other relevant parties.

What a good idea. They could call it something like Open Document Format.

Except I doubt Microsoft would be prepared to be involved in such a discussion.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24858375)

What a good idea. They could call it something like Open Document Format

ODF was presented to ISO as a fait-accomplis. So was OOXML. No-one sat down to debate the specification either format. ODF is no better than OOXML in that regard.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (3, Interesting)

Adaptux (1235736) | about 6 years ago | (#24857687)

Really, I really mean this question.

As long as no significantly more credible replacement exists, ISO will continue to matter, at least with respect to government procurement (which again sends strong signals to the economy as a whole) -- even in fields like informatics where practically all knowledgeable people primarily look elsewhere for standards.

Replacing ISO is not an easy task, but IMO it needs to be done. If you're willing to help, please join the effort at OpenISO.org [openiso.org]

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 6 years ago | (#24857857)

That's separate from the question of whether OOXML, itself, matters.
I submit that, after all this public brouhaha, the court of public opinion is going to kick this standard right in the OO, or maybe flatten them to _ _.

Re:Does ISO still matter?? (1)

pjabardo (977600) | about 6 years ago | (#24858085)

ISO is not about computer related stuff only. On the contrary that's only a tiny part and not the most significant part of it anyway. Think about screws, pipes and stuff like that: what would happen if that was not standardized? What about all kinds of measurements? How can you compare measurement or other aspects of measurement such as uncertainty if there are no adequate standards? There are all sorts of things where standards are extremely important. Think about building a large pipeline going through several countries. In different countries there might be different standards and on some small countries there might not even be a relevant standard - standard pipe diameters might be different, measurement units might be different, safety regulations are different - it is a real nightmare to handle all these little things. In these situations international standards come in very handy. An international standards organization is an essential aspect of a global economy.

Standards are not about bleeding edge technology. It deals exclusively (almost) with industry accepted practices. There are problems. some organizations have too much power sometimes (usually a large manufacturer) and their concerns might overwhelm other important aspects to other interested people.

stop complaining (-1, Flamebait)

Bizzeh (851225) | about 6 years ago | (#24857209)

can people just get over themselfs... microsoft has had its document format made a standard, and the apeal made by people who have no lives has been rejected on the grounds that its meritless. deal with it, it isnt the end of the world.

Re:stop complaining (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857247)

I find an accusation that Brazilians have no life coming from a Slashdot posting Microsoft fanboy so excellently funny that I can only salute you.

This is a bigger issue than Microsoft. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857327)

It is unacceptable for any organisation to buy a standard that provides it with a competitave advantage.

ISO has produced the OOXML situation and has ridden roughshod over its own rules to do it. So the relevance of ISO is now highly questionable.

ISO can no longer be considered independent for Technology standards.

Re:This is a bigger issue than Microsoft. (0, Troll)

CrkHead (27176) | about 6 years ago | (#24857865)

It is unacceptable for any organisation to buy a standard...

If the opening statement in a post is insightful enough to cause the supporting arguments to be redundant, will moderators get stuck in an infinate loop?

Re:stop complaining (3, Interesting)

metzomagic (1067646) | about 6 years ago | (#24857351)

deal with it, it isnt the end of the world.

It is if you are the unfortunate bastard who has to figure out how to read in a Mickeysoft Word doc and convert it to another format! What do you do when a section is tagged as "Format like Word 95"?!

metzomagic

Re:stop complaining (5, Funny)

MrMr (219533) | about 6 years ago | (#24857493)

640x480 pixels, blue background, no window decorations, and 80 columns wide big white characters?

Re:stop complaining (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857535)

I thought "Format like Word 95" meant to format like internet 95 - red flashing text with lots of exclamation points or asterisks near it. Oh yeah, and with a loud color behind it and also a background bitmap to provide some contour.

I think as long as the user can't easily read it without eyestrain it will suffice for "Format like Word 95".

Re:stop complaining (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | about 6 years ago | (#24858185)

What do you do when a section is tagged as "Format like Word 95"?!

easy - use VFAT. Not the intended behavior, but you're going for compatibility, right?

Re:stop complaining (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857365)

yes Microsoft submitted a document format
BUT they didn't let it go (still have clauses to keep their finger innit) AND have non-documented "features" like DoLikeWord97

an ISO standard HAS to be FULLY open, FULLY documented and FULLY in the hands of ISO

the MS submission is none of them
Also there is no application in the wild that would actually save/load an ISO-MSOXML file, MS have even stated they don't plan to support it

Re:stop complaining ask a flawed mind (5, Insightful)

Framboise (521772) | about 6 years ago | (#24857371)

On technical matters lies and corruption do not work. These countries show they bother about technical standards being built on rational and consensual decisions, not being bought just for helping Microsoft control document formats.

These countries appear closer to integrity than Western wealthy countries, interesting.

Re:stop complaining ask a flawed mind (4, Insightful)

Bert64 (520050) | about 6 years ago | (#24857505)

These countries appear closer to integrity than Western wealthy countries, interesting.

Because these countries have nothing to gain from supporting the entrenched suppliers, thus they are able to view the situation more objectively.

France has nothing to gain from this, and yet (5, Interesting)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | about 6 years ago | (#24858063)

We have nothing to gain from funneling money into Microsoft's coffers.
But here are a few facts:
1. Sarkozy is best buds with the head of MS France
2. At the national std org (AFNOR) meeting, there was an overwhelming consensus towards voting "no"
3. The day before the final ISO vote, someone at the office of the president called our rep to the ISO
4. Our vote switched to "abstain", magically. This allowed OOXML to pass.

Corruption. There is no other word for it. It's interesting that Venezuela, Brasil, and Cuba voted, basically, against corruption. That should tell you something about what kind of "truth" we're being fed about those countries. (And no, hold your strawmen, I'm not implying that Castro is an angel.)

We [april.org] asked for explanations about this vote; I don't think they even bothered to respond.

ISO now means... (5, Funny)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 6 years ago | (#24857243)

... The Best Standards That Money Can Buy ®

Re:ISO now means... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 years ago | (#24857353)

Brought to you by the best governments money can buy.

A century of war (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857847)

You guys should read the book "A century of war" from William Engdahl. You'll see how the countries that tried to appeal the standard ISO acceptance are the very ones trying to resist the imperial anglo american order.

Re:ISO now means... (5, Funny)

arthurpaliden (939626) | about 6 years ago | (#24857753)

I Sold Out

http://396.nfshost.com/ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857263)

Maybe it's time to switch (3, Funny)

meatmanek (1062562) | about 6 years ago | (#24857309)

These countries should just all start using ANSI. It's a much better organiza--

Wait, you're telling me A doesn't stand for awesome?

Re:Maybe it's time to switch (4, Funny)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 6 years ago | (#24857567)

It used too.

Until 50 cent bought his way into the organization and official changed it to mean "Ahhh yeeeeaaaahh bitch!"

Commision Response: (4, Insightful)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | about 6 years ago | (#24857333)

> "questioning the judgment and relevance of the ISO/IEC and the standards they approve... said they are 'no longer confident' in the ability of..."

Judgment: Bought
Relevance: Irrelevant
Your Confidence in ISO: Of no concern to us now that we have nice fat OOXML consulting paychecks flowing in.

The answer is simple (2, Insightful)

TheJasper (1031512) | about 6 years ago | (#24857337)

Don't use OOXML. A standard is not a law and ISO/IEC not an enforcement agency. They are an authority which you can judge on its worth.

Since they are arguing that they spent money on using ODF then why care about OOXML?

Re:The answer is simple (5, Insightful)

FST777 (913657) | about 6 years ago | (#24857421)

No, it's not simple. A lot of governments and businesses have rules implemented that say that they have to work with standards as much as possible. It is now possible for Microsoft to monopolize the office market further by waving the ISO flag at them.

This means that there is less incentive to move towards open and broadly implemented standards for both governments and big businesses. In turn, that means that Microsoft Office will remain something everyone expects you just have on your PC. Think about schools that give kids assignments in MS Word and Excel. Think about bosses that send schedules to employees in those formats. Think about governments that makes documents available for download in those formats. Then tell those people you don't own a license for MS Office, and look at their response.

ISO has put Microsoft in an ideal position to further conquer the market for office suits, the market for operating systems and the emerging market for online office service. I care about that.

Re:The answer is simple (-1, Troll)

TheJasper (1031512) | about 6 years ago | (#24857647)

OOXML is an open standard whatever else. This lessens the power of MS in any case. Also there is an older approved open standard, to wit ODF, which people have already invested in.

I personally am seeing Open Office used more and more. This isn't just by IT nerds, I'm talking about non-technical people who couldn't care less about the ethics of MS.

Re:The answer is simple (3, Informative)

the_B0fh (208483) | about 6 years ago | (#24857849)

You must not have been following the news. How is OOXML an open standard, when it is full of "implement this feature just like Excel 97" when the Excel 97 documentation is missing/unavailable?

Re:The answer is simple (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857697)

It is now possible for Microsoft to monopolize the office market further by waving the ISO flag at them.

No, not at all.

Firstly, Microsoft's Office 2007 product does not implement the ISO/IEC DIS 29500 (OOXML) standard.

Secondly, ISO/IEC 26300:2006 (OpenDocument, or ODF) is also a standard that the office market can wave right back a Microsoft.

ISO has put Microsoft in an ideal position to further conquer the market for office suits, the market for operating systems and the emerging market for online office service.

No, Microsoft is not in such a position at all. Microsoft has no product to market that implements either of these competing standards.

OpenOffice.org, KOffice, Google Docs, NeoOffice, Zoho, IBM Lotus Symphony and Corel WordPerfect Office X4 are all competing products in the Office market right now that implement the ISO/IEC 26300:2006 (OpenDocument or ODF) standard. Take your pick.

Now tell that to the PHB (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24858331)

They won't understand.

Yes, but (3, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | about 6 years ago | (#24857433)

Part of the advantage MS gets from this is that they can now sell their software to organizations that require open document format specs. So even if you don't want to use OOXML, you local government might (and likely will - it's not like they'll stop buying office licenses, particularly if they can get around the open format law in this way).

Of course, I've you've ever seen an ISO-9001:2000 certified process, you probably already know how completely meaningless the specs and certifications are in practical terms.

Re:Yes, but (1)

TheJasper (1031512) | about 6 years ago | (#24857691)

So what? I can use OpenOffice and still read it. In fact I don't have MS office and I haven't needed it yet. PDF is more important.

ok, profesionally I have at times used MS Office. Mainly because some people insist on comunicating in word .doc format. OOXML should bring an end to that, shouldn't it?

Re:Yes, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24858337)

MS Tried to include PDF remember? Adobe forced them to leave it out. Its still available as a free download from MS.

Re:Yes, but (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | about 6 years ago | (#24857971)

Of course, I've you've ever seen an ISO-9001:2000 certified process, you probably already know how completely meaningless the specs and certifications are in practical terms.

Yes, but the customer doesn't, so we call ourselves "ISO certified" and win business for following meaningless processes.

Re:Yes, but (1)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | about 6 years ago | (#24858195)

Yeah, and at least you get a reliably shitty process each time, so that's something.

Re:The answer is simple (5, Informative)

jimicus (737525) | about 6 years ago | (#24857523)

Don't use OOXML. A standard is not a law and ISO/IEC not an enforcement agency. They are an authority which you can judge on its worth.

Since they are arguing that they spent money on using ODF then why care about OOXML?

I RTFA (I know, I know) and that is basically what they're talking about doing.

However, the whole point of the article is that this has deeper implications. From TFA:

Given the organisation's inability to follow its own rules we are no longer confident that ISO/IEC will be capable of transforming itself into the open and vendor-neutral standards setting organisation which is such an urgent requirement. What is now clear is that we will have to, albeit reluctantly, re-evaluate our assessment of ISO/IEC, particularly in its relevance to our various national government interoperability frameworks. Whereas in the past it has been assumed that an ISO/IEC standard should automatically be considered for use within government, clearly this position no longer stands.

I don't think I need to clarify that any further.

Re:The answer is simple (1)

TheJasper (1031512) | about 6 years ago | (#24857713)

That's sort of what I meant about judging them on their worth. However in the absence of any authority what do you chose? This is definately a blow for ISO and also for people wanting a standard. I don't see people ignoring ISO completely however. The wording was such that they are questioning its relevance. A competing standards authority might even be healthy (or it will be utter chaos).

Re:The answer is simple (3, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | about 6 years ago | (#24858233)

The whole point of a standard is that it's a document you can point at and say "We want your product to do this".

The whole point of ISO is that they're a respected international organisation which publishes these standards so there's no confusion when you say "We want your product to follow ISO standard 1234567890" - and you can be reasonably confident that even if the standard isn't fantastic, it's at least something you can all agree on.

Once ISO start publishing "standards" which for whatever reason you can't usefully point to and say "We want your product to do this", the point in their existence evaporates.

Re:The answer is simple (1)

Luke_22 (1296823) | about 6 years ago | (#24857565)

problem is: if no-one is ever going to use it, what is this standard for?

it's a matter of usefulness... if iso starts to make useless(and ugly, but this is imho) things standards, there will be less incentive to design your product for standards.

not_caring_about_standards==not_having_standards, imho.

Re:The answer is simple (1)

TheJasper (1031512) | about 6 years ago | (#24857983)

Who's talking not having standards? There are still standards. Just saying that you don't have to follow a standard you don't like.

Re:The answer is simple (1)

WorthlessProgrammer (895488) | about 6 years ago | (#24858217)

"A standard is not a law.." - Well, yes many are. The ISO/IEC write many product safety and EMC standards that are adopted, sometimes with edits, as part of national laws.

step in the wrong direction.. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857357)

granted ISO isn't handling these appeals and this scenario the way they should (imho), questioning their validity as a standards organization is probably the best thing for monopolies like Microsoft.

At this point even if OOXML gets turned down as a standard and enough countries (especially the big players like europe and the US) scoff at the ISO then Microsoft has turned us against our standards ideal and won.

Without even pointing a finger, MS will have stripped the ISO of legitimate credibility as a standards institute. Not a good thing.

No, ISO did it to themselves (3, Insightful)

walterbyrd (182728) | about 6 years ago | (#24857517)

ISO did not have to go along with MS's scam. ISO could have done the right thing. MS did not hurt ISO, ISO did it to themselves.

Re:step in the wrong direction.. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 6 years ago | (#24857587)

MS has already stripped ISO of legitimate credibility, by proving that it can be bought.

I don't see why undermining them as a standards organisation means Microsoft win. There are other bodies that can serve the same purpose, either recognised with some sense of official standing in a community, or simply producing de facto standards that people follow by mutual consent or from practical necessity.

For example, while there actually is an ISO standardised version of HTML4, most of the "web standards" are not ISO recognised at all. And yet, here you are, reading this, and it probably looks pretty much how I and the Slashdot admins intended on your screen just as it does on mine. The W3C itself uses the term "recommendations" rather than claiming to define "standards", which I think is good form on their part, but almost everyone who makes browsers except for Microsoft treats the W3C as a standards-defining body in practice, and even MS acknowledge the W3C's existence.

Other effective standards have come about because of sheer industry power, with Microsoft's own, IE6-compatible flavours of HTML and CSS probably the most common example in the WWW area.

This seriously sucks (3, Interesting)

pzs (857406) | about 6 years ago | (#24857361)

Standards can be wrong or incomplete but they are still completely vital to the proper functioning of modern computing.

If Microsoft's dodgy dealings have managed to invalidate trust in one of the main standards bodies, thereby making less people adhere to standards, this will be a serious blow to interoperable computing in the future.

So let me get this straight. (-1, Troll)

Shivetya (243324) | about 6 years ago | (#24857377)

So four opposed; of eighteen; are upset and that makes ISO suddenly irrelevant? Fifty one approved.

Really it comes across as sore losers, nationalism, or at worse just more anti-Microsoft FUD. Look, you can't win them all. Just be glad we have a standard that we can work from. I have read the wiki articles on it, the back pages, and some blogs, and the only thing that comes across is just how rabid some people are. In some cases it went to the point of just being stupid.

If we were to dismiss the relevance of a standardization committee every time they made a choice we didn't like we would not have any.

Re:So let me get this straight. (5, Interesting)

gmack (197796) | about 6 years ago | (#24857485)

It's more than that. Microsoft pushed countries that otherwise would have had no interest in the process to sign on as voting members. They also stuffed country committee meetings with their own people and in one case got caught paying people to attend.

It was so bad that the working group responsible is now paralyzed because too many of the new countries who signed on as voting members can't even be bothered to vote on anything that's not OOXML.

This is not just a disagreeable decision. It's an abuse of process.

Re:So let me get this straight. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857487)

you obviously didn't read the letters sent to/from iso...

and you haven't followed much the whole process...

groklaw [groklaw.com] has some pretty good docuntation on it.

it is not about being rancid. it's about being open(the standard really isn't) and not forcing other counteries vote.

Re:So let me get this straight. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857491)

You miss the main point. The "standard" is incomplete and cannot be implemented without access to source code within Microsoft's office suite. On this basis alone, it should have been rejected until the documentation is complete. I wonder why you defend them so much when it's obvious this "standard" is utter shit and totally unusable?

Re:So let me get this straight. (1)

StringBlade (557322) | about 6 years ago | (#24857495)

Or worse, we have too many with lots of competing standards (like ODF vs. OOXML).

While we still have some competing standards, there are many fewer than there would be if we had several standards bodies

Re:So let me get this straight. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857525)

You are an ignorant asshole. The fact that upset people is not that OOXML have been approved. The fact is that what have been approved should NEVER EVER been allowed to go through the fast track process.

ISO failed massively there.

Re:So let me get this straight. (3, Insightful)

JustKidding (591117) | about 6 years ago | (#24857551)

I'd think it's quite obvious this is not about ISO approving a standard some of us don't like; it's about how this standard was approved.

ISO has demonstrated that anyone can get anything approved, if they are willing to spend a whole lot of money in the process.

An organization like ISO should at the very least appear to be objective. Instead, the sold out, it's as simple as that.

The fact that OOXML was approved, and the process leading up to that verdict, proves two things: 1) Microsoft is a scummy as it has always been, if not worse, and 2) ISO is corrupt to it's core, and can no longer be trusted to be fair about anything, period.

Re:So let me get this straight. (2, Informative)

BorgDrone (64343) | about 6 years ago | (#24857555)

Just be glad we have a standard that we can work from.

No, that's exactly the problem, we now have a standard that we can't work from. It's completely unusable and shouldn't have been accepted as a standard.

What ISO is supposed to be about (5, Interesting)

Adaptux (1235736) | about 6 years ago | (#24857569)

ISO is supposed to be about standards which work for everyone. There are written rules in place which are designed to guarantee that specifications will be accepted as international standards only when there is very broad acceptance. In the case of OOXML, these rules were bent again and again (having participated in the process both as a member of the relevant committee in my national standardization organization and at the international "Ballot Resolution Meeting", I know this from first-hand observation). In view of this, it is IMO quite reasonable to interpret the dismissal of these appeals (the first appeals ever in the history of ISO/IEC JTC1) as very strong evidence that ISO/IEC approval of a specification can not longer be interpreted as an indication that the specification has very broad acceptance among those who care about the topic area.

As a matter of fact, what will become the ISO/IEC standard on OOXML is not likely to be truly implemented by anyone. Microsoft has already announced that they will not anytime soon implement the changes relative to the OOXML format that they're currently using.

Just be glad we have a standard that we can work from

Why would anyone want to "work from" the ISO/IEC version of the OOXML specification?

Re:What ISO is supposed to be about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857899)

Why would anyone want to "work from" the ISO/IEC version of the OOXML specification?

well... you know... masochists and idiots still exists....

Re:So let me get this straight. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857577)

The fact that, of all things people might not like, OOXML became a standard is not the sore point.

The way it happened (if we can believe the reports about microsoft strawmen buying themselves in last-minute etc.) means a flawed proposition can always be declared a standard, if the supporter trows enough cash at it.

I do not implie that OOXML was a flawed proposition, I just say the way OOXML got approved, you can approve about anything.

Re:So let me get this straight. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857613)

fuck you, we don't need microsoft apologists, microsoft clearly stacked the vote paying for votes and corrupted the entire ISO process and i hope it comes back to bite both microsoft and the ISO standard on the ass...

Re:So let me get this straight. (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 6 years ago | (#24857645)

This really sums up the ISO standards process...

Most countries could not be bothered to object initially

Only a few appealed

Now the few remaining have given up

Why - because it was steamrollered through as everyone thought it would be, the next time Microsoft want a standard I suspect no-one will object because they will see no point

Re:So let me get this straight. (1)

dumbo11 (798489) | about 6 years ago | (#24857693)

The basic problem is this:
- I know about OOXML, simply because people took notice on this occasion. The methods used to pass this standard are, what most people would call, corrupt.
- I don't know much about the other standards that ISO pass each year, and I doubt many people take much of an interest.
- given that ISO apparently have no problem with the way OOXML was published, we can assume that the horrendously/obviously screwed up process is 'fine/standard'?

In short, ISO's leadership has 'standardized' a method of simply bypassing the relevant processes, buying/pressuring the right people and getting something published without any real chance to stop it.

Maybe propose a new standard for ISO - 'Method for getting an ISO stamp on a donkey'. I guess since it would be based on ooxml, it's already got one foot in the door?

Re:So let me get this straight. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | about 6 years ago | (#24857721)

I'm sorry, but I believe you have spectacularly missed the point of the complaints here. There are basically two separate issues that have upset people.

The first is that we don't have a standard we can work from. Have you looked at the OOXML documentation at all? It isn't just big, it's pretty much ill-defined. What's the point of an ill-defined standard? If you want backward compatibility, it should say that certain features must work as documenting in another standard that you cite. OOXML says they must work like various previous bits of software with unspecified behaviour.

The second is that despite these glaring technical flaws, the standard has been approved because Microsoft have basically paid for enough people to join formerly opposed national standards bodies to swing the votes. This demonstrates that a single group with enough financial power can subvert the mechanisms for independent peer review that groups like ISO are expected to follow.

It is hardly surprising that in the final tally of national standards bodies, most approved OOXML. The point is that many of those did not approve it until the last minute, when numerous companies with an obvious affiliation to Microsoft suddenly started sending representatives along just in time to get voting rights, and then voted the standard through, with no evidence that they had even read it. There is considerable opposition to OOXML in most of these places, particularly from those who have actually read the material, but they have been shouted down by money and procedural flaws. That just means the affected national standards bodies also need to revise their processes or become irrelevant.

Re:So let me get this straight. (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about 6 years ago | (#24857875)

How the fsck is this insightful?! Someone must not been following the news about how Microsoft stacked all the committees and had basic outright fraud in pushing the national votes through.

i love it! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857381)

i love to hear you people whine endlessly just because it's microsoft. what if this had been apple? you'd probably be defending them!

Re:i love it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24857503)

Fuck off. Free Software for the WIN!

Open Source, whatever, libre beats Apple shit, and Microsoft too.

I want my sources available to modify if needs be, and considering I still cannot take Mac OS and modify it and distribute it legally sucks.

I want you to suck my pussy you damn cock muncher. Come on! I know you think that cocks are clean and so on, but pussy is nicer! Now kiss it!

Freak.

Sad... (3, Informative)

trendzetter (777091) | about 6 years ago | (#24857469)

It's sad that non of the countries tries to take the appeal on the next level [groklaw.net] , the Secretaries-General, because it would show us how high the corruption in ISO goes.

Iso Vs Reality (5, Interesting)

Narpak (961733) | about 6 years ago | (#24857477)

While I do not doubt that ISO will be around for a long while yet; the case of ODF and OOXML illustrates how their significance isn't all that it used to be. The case of ODF shows that even if a big corporation gets their own standards passed by unethical means people will still choose the superior product. At least so it would seem so far. More and more companies and nations are making ODF a document standard because it is Open and available to all their citizens. Why pay for expensive software when free software does the job more than adequately.

What annoys me the most about cases such as this is the fact that they get little to no coverage in my nations media. No mention in any newspaper at all. Then again it's no big surprise since the "newspapers" are looking more like tabloids every day.

Re:Iso Vs Reality (1)

Dorkmaster Flek (1013045) | about 6 years ago | (#24857961)

What annoys me the most about cases such as this is the fact that they get little to no coverage in my nations media. No mention in any newspaper at all. Then again it's no big surprise since the "newspapers" are looking more like tabloids every day.

The simple fact of the matter is Joe Public can't be bothered to follow a document format war. They want to know what the weather will be like tomorrow and who's getting voted off the island tonight, and that's pretty much it.

Re:Iso Vs Reality (1)

WorthlessProgrammer (895488) | about 6 years ago | (#24858357)

"the case of ODF and OOXML illustrates how their significance isn't all that it used to be." => Non Plus - I have worked with various IEC/ISO WGs and TCs; and the ODF debacle does not seem to be representative. E.G., I consider ISO17025 and ISO9899:1999(cor1) to be relevant, usable, and reasonable.

Good thing,but in this case it will have no effect (1)

C_Kode (102755) | about 6 years ago | (#24857539)

It is good that they are doing this, but it will have no effect in this specific case. No matter what anyone says, these guys speaking out does in fact damage the ISO's credibility. Considering the situation, it will effect the ISO at some point. Of course in the eyes of Microsoft the damage doesn't matter because each battle if fought one and a time and their is always going to be casualties. The ISO isn't part of Microsoft so however they suffer, won't matter one bit to them.

What *governments* think is what matters here (0, Troll)

walterbyrd (182728) | about 6 years ago | (#24857573)

Governments will want msft anyway, because msft will bribe them. So the ISO approval of OOXML gives the governments a good excuse. If goverments want msft "standards" then msft wins. What we think about ISO does not mean a damn thing.

As always, (3, Informative)

toby (759) | about 6 years ago | (#24857621)

Groklaw has more [groklaw.net] on this.

Another link (1)

Schnoodledorfer (1223854) | about 6 years ago | (#24857873)

Andy Updegrove [consortiuminfo.org] does, too. As usual, he's a bit more level-headed and insightful than PJ.

Politics (4, Insightful)

Tom (822) | about 6 years ago | (#24857709)

That's how politics come to a close about an issue. Those who lost complain, publicly, loudly, and with no effect whatsoever on the process itself. Then everyone goes back to business.

You can love it or hate it, but if you watch enough politics closely enough, you see this pattern repeat over and over and over again.

Yes and no (1)

g2devi (898503) | about 6 years ago | (#24858115)

Yes that's often the pattern, but not always, especially in the computer field. Sometimes, a seemingly minor issue is the excuse for radical change. Often the only variable is the timing.

That's how X.org started from XFree86 and XFree86 died -- it would have succeeded in 1990 not 2001.
That's how IBM lost it's PC leadership (trying to force Micro Channel as "The patented successor to ISA") -- it would have succeeded in 1985 but not 1990.
That might be happening with Vista too if Microsoft isn't careful -- it would have succeeded in 2000 possibly not 2006 (time will tell).

I suspect it might be too early for ISO be be junked, but it might be the excuse the highly populated countries of the world (India+Brazil make up a large percentage of the world population) to create their own ISO...especially if they can get China on board. Each of these countries are extremely nationalistic, so they are just looking for a big enough excuse with enough momentum to go their own way. If OOXML is that excuse, that separatist ISO might have preferential treatment in many countries that are trying to escape American and Euro-centric standards.

But: We can replace ISO (5, Interesting)

Adaptux (1235736) | about 6 years ago | (#24858309)

That's how politics come to a close about an issue. Those who lost complain, publicly, loudly, and with no effect whatsoever on the process itself. Then everyone goes back to business.

You can love it or hate it, but if you watch enough politics closely enough, you see this pattern repeat over and over and over again.

There's a difference here though: In most political contexts, nonviolently establishing an alternative process is prohibitively difficult.

In this context, it's still difficult, but much easier. ISO is not an intergovernmental organization. It's just simply a private-sector organization with seat in Geneva. Nothing and nobody has the right stop us from setting up a competing organization [openiso.org] .

The key challenge is in convincing governments that the new organization is more worthy of paying attention to than ISO/IEC JTC1. In this context it's very good news that some governments are expressing doubts about ISO/IEC.

Note that since nations are sovereign, it is not necessary for an organization that aims to become a better alternative to ISO/IEC to convince a majority of countries. Even convincing a handful of countries is probably enough if a heavyweight like e.g. Brazil or India is among them, since that would suffice for putting very strong pressure on e.g. Microsoft to allow true interoperability.

Standard standards (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | about 6 years ago | (#24857725)

Standards are great, but who says you have to implement them?

Look at Internet Explorer and the w3 standards as a case.

If Microsoft don't add the competing OPEN format to Office, they will p-off lots of businesses and governments who went open source but still have departments using Microsoft products.

Thanks Microsoft!!! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 6 years ago | (#24857921)

You managed to not only mess up another standard this time, you took down an international standards organization with you.

This one must be a record.

The Chickens Have come home to Roost! (1)

1_brown_mouse (160511) | about 6 years ago | (#24857987)

Its their bed that they have made and now they have to lay in it.

Its sad to see the reputation destroyed for so little.

It does shed light on the Big Star/Cheap Hooker situations that crop up. Not thinking with the big head.

EU Commission (2, Interesting)

expat.iain (1337021) | about 6 years ago | (#24858015)

There is still the outstanding EU checks continuing. That and the fact there is still a path for the ISO appeals process to continue means this is not over yet. Considering ISO polices itself and does a pretty awful job, I suspect that the EU is going to be the best chance of putting this terrible 'standard' to sleep.

Why not start their own standards organization? (1)

plopez (54068) | about 6 years ago | (#24858273)

It also seems to me that we have a classic north/south western vs. non-western corporation dominated vs. socialist split occurring here. It's in the best interests of these interests of these countries to join forces to protect each other.

And while their at it form their own version of the IMF/World Bank/WTO as those organizations seem to screw over smaller nations so consistently. Punch out of the current system and start their own.

On OOXML (2, Interesting)

darkcmd (894336) | about 6 years ago | (#24858407)

Alright, OOXML has been ratified an official standard by the ISO organization. But what does that mean? Just because ISO has made OOXML a standard doesn't mean somebody is putting a gun to someone's head forcing them to use it. All of the good standards have been discovered over time, by the trial of time. If people do not use OOXML, then the fact that it is a standard would be moot.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?