OOXML – negative vote at International Organization for Standardization

By EDRi · September 12, 2007

Microsoft supported format Office Open XML (OOXML) did not received a
positive vote in the ISO (International Organization for Standardization)
ballot that ended on 2 September 2007, failing to achieve the number of
votes necessary for its approval as a standard.

Open Office XML is a XML-based file format specification for electronic
documents, developed by Microsoft and sent to Ecma International, an
international, private standards organization, to be published as the Ecma
376 standard in December 2006. Ecma International submit it to ISO for
adoption as an International Standard, through the “fast-track procedure”.

Microsoft OOXML claims there is a strong international support for its
adoption as an International standard: ” The Ecma Office Open XML file
formats are being rapidly adopted across multiple platforms and products
from a wide range of IT vendors, creating real value for IT users around the
globe. (…) As well, the open standard has also been gaining broad adoption
across the software industry for use on a variety of platforms – including
Linux, Windows, Mac OS and the Palm OS. ”

However a strong oposition has started to come up as well, complaining
about a number of problems with the draft standard, including the existance
of a standard ISO26300 named Open Document Format (ODF), unprovable
implementation of the OOXML specification, information missing from the
specification and even that is the lack of any guarantee that somebody can
write software that fully or partially implements the OOXML specification
without being liable to patent lawsuits or patent license fees by Microsoft.

The opposition concentrated around website noooxml.org tried to present
these concerns to the national members of ISO in order for them to vote
“NO”. Also an online petition raised more than 45 000 votes against this

But the decisive vote in the approval of the draft standard ISO/IEC DIS
29500, Information technology – Office Open XML file formats was reserved to
the IEC and ISO national member bodies from 104 countries, including 41 that
are participating members of the joint ISO/IEC technical committee, JTC 1
Information technology.

In order to be approved the standard needed the get at least 2/3 of the
votes cast by national bodies participating in ISO/IEC JTC 1 to be positive
and no more than ΒΌ of the total number of national body votes cast negative.

The five-month process ended on 2 September 2007 and neither of the criteria
was met – just 53% of the votes from the national bodies part of the ISO/IEC
JTC 1 were positive and 26% of the national votes were negative.

This means that the standard will not be approved as suggested and a new
meeting, called ballot resolution meeting, will be organized by the relevant
subcommittee of ISO/IEC JTC 1 in February 2008 trying to “review and seek
consensus on possible modifications to the document in light of the comments
received along with the votes. If the proposed modifications are such that
national bodies then wish to withdraw their negative votes, and the above
acceptance criteria are then met, the standard may proceed to publication”,
as the ISO press release explains.

It seems unlikely that the February 2008 meeting will actually reach a
consensus taking into consideration the various comments on the draft
standard, but also the growing opposition from some important states, such
as Great Britain, France, Korea or even Ireland, despite the optimistic
approach of the Microsoft team. In this case the fast-track procedure will
be terminated, but the draft standard could be re-submitted under the normal
ISO/IEC standards development rules.

Another possible way forward, as suggested by the standards organizations of
New Zealand or France could be to publish the MS-OOXML specification as an
ISO/IEC technical report and not as an international standard. This will
provide all member countries more time to work on the specification.

Vote closes on draft ISO/IEC DIS 29500 standard (4.09.2007)

Results of the OOXML Ballot of 2nd September

Next steps for the OOXML standard (5.09.2007)

Microsoft’s OpenXML misses out (for now) on approval as ISO standard

Strong Global Support for Open XML as It Enters Final Phase of ISO Standards
Process (4.09.2007)

NO to the Microsoft Office format as an ISO standard