Stuffing it Up – ODF and OOXML Document Format Battle III

This is the third in a three-part series. Read the second part.


The stuffing of national boards with Certified Partners, getting more countries to join the ISO as voting members – a full throttled attack.

National Standards boards in some countries were flooded with Microsoft Certified Partners flocking to join in on the shenanigans, sometimes with more Microsoft help than was permissible and odd last minute rule changes. Then there were the various national standards bodies in places like Malta and the Ivory Coast that suddenly developed a powerful need to participate in document standards determination. Did any of these new players even read Microsoft’s OOXML specification?

There were only 9 Participating Members in SC34 November 2006. This subcommittee enjoyed a quiet, rather anonymous life until the OOXML bombshell dropped into its lap late last year. Membership fluctuations were few and far between. Since November, another 29 members have joined the SC34.

These last-minute additions to the P membership cast their votes on the approval of OOXML are Cote d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Ecuador, Jamaica, Lebanon, Malta, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uruguay and Venezuela.

What urgent interest could Cyprus or Malta suddenly have in Office File Formats?

If the OOXML standard was so “open” and so necessary to have as an industry choice, and – of course – so well developed/implemented/tested/adopted, why would Microsoft need to behave like this?


Andrew Updegrove, an internationally recognized expert on standard setting and open source organizations explains how the ISO voting works.


Via an official statement issued today (29 August 2007), the Linux Foundation is encouraging ISO members to vote against fast-track approval for Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) document format. Citing the length and technical complexity of the OOXML documentation, the significant number of issues that have been raised by national standards bodies evaluating the format, and potential challenges associated with third-party implementation of OOXML support, the Linux Foundation says that ISO participants should vote no and provide comments that “reflect their best, neutral, technical judgment� in order to ensure the future availability of documents and preserve the integrity of the standards process.


Microsoft accused of rigging OOXML votes

The Free Software Foundation Europe has accused Microsoft of “stuffing the ballot boxes” in a vote designed to establish Office Open XML as a recognized industry standard.

Sweden Abstains

Microsoft partners had not participated in any of the SIS’s earlier OOXML discussions but paid their admission fee and gave OOXML a resounding 25 “yes” votes compared to six “no” votes and three abstentions. It was believed OOXML was heading to a certain defeat had Microsoft’s supporters not turned out en masse.

NEWS: The Swedish Standards Institute has declared its recent vote in favor of Microsoft’s Office Open XML format invalid. It means that Sweden will probably abstain from an important upcoming international vote on whether to make the format a standard.

The original decision to accept OOXML as an ISO standard was taken by the Swedish working group on Monday. Microsoft Sweden was later found to have offered extra “marketing contributions” to its business partners to encourage them to vote for OOXML, according to e-mails seen by Computer Sweden. Read the Digg reaction to another story about this incident.

Now where there is smoke there is always fire. Sweden can’t be the only irregularity. The great marketing arm has its hand in pots all over the kitchen.

Voting in Portugal

The Portuguese national standards body convened Technical Committee 173 for “Document Description Language” on June 26, 2007 for its first meeting (8 members). The Microsoft representative was voted to be the chair of the TC. Yes, Chairman of the Technical Committee with the power to vote ‘Yes’ for Microsoft’s OOXML format. Does anyone see a problem with that?

National Body’s representative, Instituto de Informatica (Informatics Institute) decides: Both Sun and IBM were told there was no room (no seats) for them to join the committee in Portugal and so they were not allowed to attend the July 16th meeting. IBM remains locked out of the Portuguese OOXML meeting reports Bob Sutor, Vice President of Open Source and Standards for IBM.

Read Paulo Pires’ post from Portugal about this matter.

Portugal Votes Yes “With Comments” at ISO.

Voting in Germany

According to the German IT news site Heisse, the committee counted many supporters of Microsoft, whereas two opponents – Deutsche Telekom and Google – were not allowed to vote. “Participants described the process as ludicrous.” The Heise news item in German. Read more at Groklaw.

Currently, Mike Cosse, responsible for government relations for Microsoft Germany, talked about the Open XML standardization process at a “Projekt Zukunft” (project future) discussion round on “Linux or Microsoft?”. “Cosse blamed IBM for an obstruction of the Open XML standardization process. IBM did everything to combat a second open document format. He further stressed that open standards were compatible with patent rights.”

Voting in Russia

The Russian Government has taken a step towards endorsing ODF through an e-government program that would mandate use of software that conforms to “widely used standards” in all government contracts. According to the Russian Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications “within the project to form an e-government concept in the Russian Federation, support of ISO/IEC 26300: 2006 is planned.”

Russia votes YES for OOXML = go scratch your head!

Voting in Malaysia

From “Anyhow, as a Malaysian, I’m rather interested in how Malaysia as a P country voted. This is because we didn’t have any dramas in our Industry Standards Committee on Information Technology, Telecommunication and Multimedia, ISC-G (equivalent to the US’ INCITS) such as having some dude voting twice (beady eyes on you, Sweden), or have the committee so divided that the body decided to abstain (a hello to our neighbors, Indonesia), or having 2/3rds of the committee voting “Yes with comments” despite the strong and valid objections made (down the Causeway — yes, you Singapore), or running out of chairs for Sun and IBM (wahey, everyone say hi to Portugal).”

The committee, the ISC-G, voted “No with comments.” Unequivocally. Score was ten-nil (10-0) BUT at the ISO ballot voting this is how it went: “Malaysia have decided to Abstain.”

When and how that happened remains a mystery. Hey Microsoft – do you have an answer? This on top of the fact that the Malaysian government itself has said, “Malaysia formally embraces Open Document Format.”

Further reading on irregularity in Mexico, Netherlands, Colombia and many other countries involving and proof of denial-of-service, spreading misinformation, committee stuffing, voting irregularity.


OOXML is defective by design

The OOXML EMCA376 Facts [Large PDF]

Accessibility Issues with Office Open XML
Adaptive Technology Resource Center, Faculty of Information Studies, University of Toronto

There are grave issues with respect to the accessibility of Office Open XML as a format and potential standard that should preclude its adoption at present. It may be the case that OOXML can be improved to ameliorate some of the more specific technical concerns, but it is most likely too late for the higher-level issues, especially those inherent in the process by which OOXML was developed.

Achieving Openness: a closer look at ODF & OOXML
by Sam Hiser

“Pressure from customers, including many governments, has pushed technology companies toward openness and toward ODF. Microsoft has responded with its new format, OOXML. However, a close examination of the origins, technical specifications and follow-on implementations of both formats reveals significant differences. Where ODF meets the four objective criteria of open standards handsomely, OOXML does not satisfy any of the four as extensively.”

Andy predicts: “I am now predicting that the OOXML vote has failed to pass.”


The thousands comments the various countries filed with their votes on MS OOXML have to be sorted out. Read Alex Brown – where you can also download a zip file with all the comments.

Microsoft has failed in its attempt to have its Office Open XML document format fast-tracked straight to the status of an international standard by the International Organization for Standardization.

Countries That Voted NO

Brazil, Canada, China, Cuba, Denmark, Czech Republic, Ecuador, France, India, Iran, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Libya, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom. See the complete Ballot Results.

Observation: 4 out of the G8 counties went NO and two more abstained with comments (many unresolvable) and the rest voted YES with some unresolvable comments. Rapidly developing countries and the major Dragons in Asia all went NO, signaling signs that a large digital divide may be developing.


An Open Letter to ISO – Is it time to standardize?

In light of the recent events relating to the standardization process of EOOXML, it seems appropriate to look into possible standardization of the process itself.

ISO reforms proposed in response to OOXML shenanigans

Even in Loss, MS spins it as a Win

“Microsoft lost its effort to win “fast track” approval of its OOXML (which it calls Open XML) as an international standard, but you would not know that from reading much of the press coverage.”

And here’s the official spin from MS

International Herald Tribune Published: September 3, 2007: “Amid lobbying, Microsoft is seen winning an international open standard vote.”

International Herald Tribune Published: September 4, 2007: “Microsoft’s bid for ‘open’ document format is unexpectedly rebuffed.”

Google welcomes ISO decision

“Our engineers conducted an independent analysis of the OOXML specification and found several areas of concern, which we communicated both to the ISO [PDF] and to the public. These include and are not limited to the following…” The Google Press Release.


Corrupt countries were more likely to support the OOXML document format.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO) rejected the fast-track approval of the controversial Microsoft-supported OOXML document format as an ISO standard in a vote on 2 September 2007. During the voting process the reputation of ISO as a dependable technical standardization organization was questioned. For example, in Sweden a Microsoft representative was caught offering to recompense partners for voting yes to OOXML. Also a sudden interest from countries like Ivory Coast to the OOXML issue has been found suspicious.

From Slashdot: “It turns out there’s an interesting correlation between Transparency International ‘corruption perceptions index’ and voting behavior in ISO’s OOXML decision. Countries with a lower score (more corruption) on the 2006 CPI were more likely to vote in favor of OOXML, and those with a higher score were less likely. According to the analysis, ‘This statistics supports with a P value of 0.07328 the hypothesis that the corrupted countries were more likely to vote for approval (one-tailed Fisher’s Exact test). In other words, simplified a bit: the likelihood that there was no positive correlation between the corruption level and probability of an approval vote, that is, this is just a random effect, is about 7%.’ Of course, correlation doesn’t prove causality.”

Map of the First Worldwide Format War:

What sticks out immediately is that the majority of Asia has gone with ODF. Some countries like Russia and Netherlands voted yes for OOXML but have announced that ODF will be the standard for their countries. To date, eight national governments, four regional/state governments, and more than 50 government agencies worldwide have recognized the benefits of open standards. A truly open standard, such as OpenDocument Format (ODF), ensures public access to information, technology neutrality and choice. ODF is now being considered for use by countries in every major region of the globe.


Critics Skeptical That Microsoft Will Be Able To Alter Vote On OOXML

“Comments that accompanied the votes will be discussed at a ballot resolution meeting (BRM) to be organized by the relevant subcommittee of ISO/IEC JTC 1 (SC 34, Document description and processing languages) in February 2008 in Geneva, Switzerland.” ISO writes that, if enough P level countries change their votes from No or Abstain to Yes, such that the required P level countries’ two-thirds majority in favor is met, OOXML might still be approved for fast-track adoption as an ISO standard: “The objective of the meeting will be 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.”

So we have to wait until February or later for the final outcome. One thing for certain, Microsoft will push harder now than before. Regardless of the outcome, damage has been done to the standard process. And ODF has gained huge popularity around the world and keeps gaining strength.

It has occurred to me that the eventuality of this proccess may not have occurred to Microsoft at this time; however, soon they will realize that the miscalculation of trying to force their “Open” standard through this process when one already exists in that field. Their stuffing has backfired and they may need to start supporting ODF as a native file format in Microsoft Office. They know they somehow will have to support Korea, Japan, India, Brazil, Holland, Denmark, South Africa, Germany, Russia and other countries that embrace ODF. And don’t forget the countless government agencies and institutions in many other countries that are adopting ODF.

“The ISO process is indicating that a standard is and should be something that represents a common ground for everyone, not simply the formal ratification of a defacto monopoly. The creators of ODF (who were not all Open Office employees) recognized that and aimed for as clean a standard as possible. If Microsoft had chosen to work with them then chances are it would have had a standard far more to its liking than ODF as it stands now. They took a gamble that they could continue to use their weight to get their way, and by all indications it has not only alienated the ISO committee but also largely reduced its credibility in other standards areas at a time when open standardization is becoming recognized as the only legitimate standardization form.” by Kurt Cagle.

And, in the end, does it really come down to the file format, or making sure you produce a product people want and is worth paying for and not forced on them compared to something that’s for free. The next version of ODF is bound to be better and is an ISO. Microsoft is still a member of OASIS and I am sure they would welcome MS help make improvements to ODF. so that it is better for all of us including Microsoft, to share ONE UNIVERSAL FORMAT and OPEN TO ALL.

If a Format has to go through all this, there is something wrong with it, and it can never be an “Open Standard.”

How can MS say Office 2007 is the best Office Suite available if it does not support, as a native file format, a major International Standard?


Andrew Updegrove posted on his blog about how ISO has come to a complete halt. Not one standard as been passed because of the GREAT MICROSOFT STUFFING. Why? Because all those last minute countries Microsoft influenced to join ISO SC 34 are not voting.

“The resulting gridlock of this committee was as predictable as it is unfortunate. The extraordinarily large number of upgrades in the final months, and particularly in the final days, therefore seemed attributable not to an abiding investment and interest in the work of SC 34, but in the outcome of a single standards vote. That conclusion is now certain, given the voting performance of the upgraded members since they cast their votes on OOXML.”

It seems clear that there was no purpose other than to stuff the ballots and now progress with SC 34, a very important committee, has ground to a halt.

Interesting Reading:

6 thoughts on “Stuffing it Up – ODF and OOXML Document Format Battle III

  1. Pingback: Boycott Novell » Quick Mention: Summary of Microsoft OOXML Manipulation and Ballot-stuffing

  2. Sam

    There should be a ISO bylaw that allows them to oust any member which isn’t active in the majority of votes.

  3. Russell

    Hi Sam

    There have been some suggestions by the outgoing ISO Governor Martin Bryan:

    “Unless ISO tightens up on its rules, and removes or demotes, P members who do not vote as required by ISO rules I would recommend my successor that it is perhaps time to pass WG1’s outstanding standards over to OASIS, where they can get approval in less than a year and then do a PAS submission to ISO, which will get a lot more attention and be approved much faster than standards currently can be within WG1″

  4. Peets

    Actually, there is another, much more dangerous side effect to what Microsoft has done to ISO: as far as my understanding is correct it has also put them in a position TO BLOCK ANY COMPETING STANDARDS. Yes, that’s right, Microsoft has put itself in a position to ward off any future competition to any “open” standard they wish to publish if their abuse is left unchecked, and as long as the gaping holes in the ISO member and voting procedures are left unchecked there is no reason why other companies can’t join in on the act.

    It is incredible that Microsoft is so intent on hanging on to its monopoly that it didn’t hesitate to destroy arguably one of the most valuable mechanisms to international collaboration. If that doesn’t tell you how dangerous it is to leave organisations with that much power unchecked I don’t know what it – it threatens the sovereignity of any nation in the world.

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