Wednesday, 9 April 2008

UKUG is not happy with BSI approving OOXML

from UKUG (UK Unix User Group)

Press Release -- Tuesday 8 April 2008

Last week the BSI (The British Standards Institution) decided to approve the
fast tracking of the Microsoft sponsored OOXML format (DIS29500).

UKUUG is concerned that this decision is against the public interest for several reasons:

* The current draft attracted over 1000 unique comments (i.e. corrections), of
which the largest list (635) was from the BSI itself. How does the BSI then
approve fast-tracking, in the absence of a revised draft?

* Accepting an unfinished draft into the fast track standards route can only
serve to harm the sector to which the standard will apply, as well as
undermining wider faith in the standards bodies who are allowing this to happen.

* Given the absence of a single implementation of the standard (Not even
Microsoft are willing to state when they'll implement it) it seems hard to
justify the fast tracking on the basis of urgent market need.

* Rejection of the Fast-track is not rejection of the standard. If this
standard were put on the slow track, there would then be time for all involved
to examine the 6000+ pages in the detail that such an important standard needs
if we are to rely on it into the future.

* To be fast-tracked a proposed standard needs a high level of consensus, whereas
OOXML has been marked by high levels of controversy.

That being the case, the UKUUG is seeking legal advice on how best to proceed in
order to convince the BSI to reconsider its decision and instead raise an
objection to the fast-tracking of the standard within the 2 month window allowed
by the ISO.

Alain Williams, Chairman of UKUUG, said:

"We are very disappointed that BSI has chosen to take this decision against
the advice of its technical committee. The format used for storage of documents
will affect our lives for decades to come, and it is imperative that standards
such as OOXML are given a rigorous review rather than being rubber-stamped by
the BSI. Where would we be if the original Magna Carta was unreadable ?"

Previous proprietary document formats have become difficult or impossible to
read within little more than a decade. There is no reason to believe this trend
will not continue if allowed so to do. Without open standards for our documents
we are likely to inflict a 'digital dark-ages' on our descendants when they
discover that they are unable to read any of the sources for their history, such
as Government records, acts of Parliament, property title deeds, scientific
research papers, and family histories. They will not forgive us if we fail to
act to protect them now, but instead allow another generation of poorly
specified proprietary standards are allowed to become widely adopted.

UKUUG calls on all that share our dissatisfaction with the BSI, to join us in an
effort to save them from their folly, and so ensure that lasting harm is averted.

-- ENDS --

Editor's Notes:

UKUUG is the UK's Open Systems User Group, for people who care about open IT
standards and the systems that implement them. UKUUG promotes education and
understanding through its newsletter, regular briefings and conferences. It is
independent of any industry groupings and not-for-profit. It values
intelligence, thoughtfulness and long-term thinking rather than immediacy and

BSI: Since its foundation in 1901 as the Engineering Standards Committee, BSI
Group has grown into a leading global independent business services
organization. The Group now operates globally through its three divisions: BSI
British Standards, BSI Management Systems and BSI Product Services.

For further information about UKUUG visit:

For an overview of the story behind this visit:

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