With thanks to Alain Williams, UKUUG Chairman, this is what you need to know and do before Friday in order to register an objection to the fast tracking:
The document format used by OpenOffice.org and other applications is an ISO standard. An open standard has been needed in this area for many years to allow competition and for a range of tools to be developed that all use a common data format. Until the ISO standard all we had (in the main) was de-facto proprietary binary standards.
The ISO standard is now seen as being under threat from a competing standard proposed by ECMA based on Microsoft Office Open XML. We think that you may want to object and if you read below,
you can find out why and how.
You must act by Friday 26 January.
An open standard (ISO/IEC 26300:2006) for document formats is currently implemented by a number of office software suites, probably the most notable of which is OpenOffice.org
Microsoft played little or no part in the ISO/IEC 26300:2006 process and subsequently made its own proposal to ECMA (European Computer Manufacturers’ Association) for ‘Office Open XML’. That was approved by ECMA and then submitted to ISO/IEC for ratification as an independent standard on a fast-track process. A 30-day contradiction period is now running which terminates on 5th February.
The fast-track proposal severely overlaps the existing ISO standard and apparently contains numerous technical issues which deserve serious consideration. There does not appear to have been any effort at providing a gap analysis to see where the existing standard does not provide support for proposals in the ECMA document and hence no corresponding effort to produce a single combined standard to meet the needs of both parties. The presence of more than one standard covering the same areas will inevitably lead to confusion amongst users of standards.
Any voting national body (of which the British Standards Institute, BSI, is one) can register a contradiction with ISO/IEC to cause the fast-track proposal to be blocked and for a resolution phase to begin.
UKUUG Council has written to the BSI on behalf of UKUUG requesting that they register a contradiction. It believes that the more people who write to them, the more the effect will be.
UKUUG Council urges any UK citizen with an interest in this area to read this on Groklaw and then to register their view with the Chairman of the BSI panel looking into this area: Francis Cave (email@example.com), objections MUST be received by 26th January to have effect.
To object to the fast-track procedure is not necessarily to object to the proposal itself but it will at least cause a pause for thought and may give time for more detailed scrutiny of the 6,000 page document.
If you do wish to object, please read the objections document and then write to Francis Cave requesting that the BSI formally object to the fast-track proposal.
We have slightly edited Alain Williams’s message to UKUUG members for (what we hope is) our wider readership.