November 28, 2005
Countless companies, cities, jurisdictions, states, and nations have awoken to the fact that locking up their data in proprietary formats, such as Microsoft's .doc, has chained them to the unending upgrade cycle to keep that data accessible, and is simultaneously channelling public funds into private corporate hands.
While some have shifted, or at least begun to shift, their operations from proprietary operating systems and software, such as Microsoft Windows and Office, to Free (unfettered) systems, such as GNU/Linux and OpenOffice.org, Microsoft has sought to hinder and redirect these efforts by seeming to address at least some of the concerns that prompted the moves towards open and accessible data formats in the first place: Microsoft has vowed to open up their XML format.
On the surface — and especially to non-technical personnel---this would certainly sound great, but Groklaw carries a Format comparison between ODF and MS XML to demonstrate that even if Microsoft's XML format (MSXML) is legally open, it is really designed to remain as inaccessible as possible, especially when compared to the well-designed OASIS Open Document (ODT) format. Because MSXML shuns all standards but its own, it pushes aside the work of countless experts, denies the worth of existing standards, reduces the value of standard tools, and once again chains users to what amounts to a standard owned by one company, a company whose entire business model is founded on proprietary formats, paranoid control of its market, and an ingenious upgrade strategy to milk its customers for all that they're worth.
If you lock up your data in a proprietary format, that's your problem. But if you lock up other people's data — that of the government's citizens in proprietary formats and pay money for it, too, then that amounts to negligence, in my opinion, if not also misuse of funds!
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