Brazil protests ratification of OOXML

Associacao Brasileira de Normas Tecnicas issues an appeal to the ISO on the grounds that a key meeting in April was inconclusive and that discussions on the matter sometimes descended into farce.

Tom Espiner Special to CNET News
3 min read
Brazil is to appeal the International Organization for Standardization decision to ratify Microsoft Office Open XML, now known as ISO/IEC DIS 29500.

In a letter to ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1 on Thursday, Associacao Brasileira de Normas Tecnicas (ABNT), the ISO national body representing Brazil, filed an appeal against the approval of Office Open XML (OOXML) as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard.

The letter, published by open-source expert Andrew Updegrove on standards blog ConsortiumInfo.org, revealed that Associacao Brasileira was appealing to ISO on the grounds that the ISO ballot resolution meeting in April was inconclusive.

According to the Brazilian group, the total number of responses to OOXML from national bodies that was addressed at the ballot resolution meeting was 189 out of 1,027, or 18 percent. The 1,027 responses included recommendations to alter OOXML, which were supposed to have been resolved before OOXML could have been ratified. The group added that 838, or 82 percent, of those responses were not considered at the ballot meeting, but rushed through in block votes.

The Brazilian national body said that it had not been given enough time at the ballot meeting to present a proposal regarding legacy binary mapping, in breach of ISO rules. It also said it had decided to appeal as the final text of DIS 29500 had not been made available to national bodies, even though ISO regulations state that no more than a month should pass between ratification of a standard and a final text being made available.

However, even the road that led to Brazil appealing seems to have been rocky. Jomar Silva, director general of the ODF Alliance Brasil and a member of the Associacao Brasileira group that voted on OOXML, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday that OOXML supporters in Associacao Brasileira had tried to block Brazil's appeal from within, by refusing to engage in discussions when the group was deciding whether to appeal. Silva claimed he presented a number of arguments as to why Brazil should appeal, but OOXML supporters continued to attempt to derail the process.

A 'fragile and indecent' argument
"The OOXML supporters (were) tied to (the) fragile and indecent argument (of) 'we're not prepared to discuss', saying that, in this way, Brazil could not make the protest against the whole process by 'lack of consensus'," wrote Silva. "Just to clarify, (in) the ISO directives 'Consensus is the absence of reasoned opposition'."

According to Silva, the discussions descended into farce, with the OOXML supporters even refusing to allow the Associacao Brasileira representative to speak. "For the first time, I almost saw a real fight inside a meeting," wrote Silva.

Associacao Brasileira is the second national body to appeal the ISO's decision on OOXML. On Thursday, it was revealed that the South African ISO national body, the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), was also appealing, on the grounds of a "poorly conducted" ballot resolution meeting.

"South Africa challenges the validity of a final vote that we contend was based upon inadequate information resulting from a poorly conducted (ballot resolution meeting)," wrote Martin Kuscus, chief executive of SABS.

Kuscus added: "Moreover, we challenge the validity of a process that, from beginning to end, required all parties involved to analyse far too much information in far too little time, and involved a BRM that did not remotely provide enough time to perform the appointed purpose of that procedure, and for which an arbitrary time limitation was imposed to discuss and resolve a significant number of substantial responses, despite (ISO) directives not requiring any such limitation as to duration."

An ISO spokesperson declined to comment as to what effect the appeals would have on ISO/IEC DIS 29500.

"The ISO Technical Management Board is meeting next week," wrote the spokesperson in an email exchange. "We will communicate after this meeting on what appeals have been received, how we will process them and what impact this may have on the publication of the standard."

Tom Espiner of ZDNet UK reported from London.