ISO calls for end to Open XML 'personal attacks'

The ISO committee handling OOXML braves open-source protests to meet in Oslo and works out how to ensure interoperability with ODF. (By David Meyer of ZDNet UK)

The International Organization for Standardization has called for "personal attacks" to cease in the debate surrounding Microsoft's Office Open XML standard.

The move came as an ISO committee meeting in Norway attracted protesters, who gathered to call for the retraction of Open Office XML (OOXML) from the ISO standardization process.

At the start of April, the document format won enough votes to become a fully fledged ISO standard. Many observers had been against that standardization, pointing out that the OpenDocument Format (ODF) already existed as an ISO standard, and arguing that OOXML's documentation contained too many unanswered technical problems to be passed.

Last week the ISO committee in charge of document standards, SC 34, met in Oslo to discuss the way forward for OOXML and ODF. The plenary session was marked by protests outside, largely carried out by delegates from a nearby open-source conference. The protesters were calling for OOXML to be withdrawn from ISO standardization--something that could theoretically happen if a national standards body were to protest against its own vote within the next month or two.

One result of the SC 34 meeting was an open letter, signed by 30 members, which read: "We the undersigned participants at this SC 34 meeting wish to make it clear that we deplore the personal attacks that have been made during the (OOXML) standardization project in recent months. We believe standards debate should always be carried out with respect for all parties, even when they strongly disagree. We call on all organizations and individuals involved in SC 34 standardization to support this view, and to refrain from initiating or engaging in any such personal attacks."

The committee passed several resolutions relating to OOXML. The most significant was the establishment of an ad hoc working group to "maintain" the standard. This is a temporary measure, as the committee foresees the need for three document standard-related working groups: one to maintain OOXML, one to maintain ODF, and one to "work on interoperability/harmonization" between the two.

Another ad hoc group will also become operational in three months' time, collecting reports of "possible editorial or technical defects" in OOXML from national standards bodies, "liaison organizations," and the general public.

All members of the SC 34 committee will have to be given access to the final text of the OOXML standard by May 1 at the latest, the meeting also resolved.

David Meyer of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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