GNOME Foundation defends OOXML involvement

GNOME Foundation responds to critics regarding OOXML.

The GNOME Foundation, recently slammed by critics who accused it of supporting Microsoft's Open Office XML document format (OOXML), has issued a statement to clarify its position on the matter.

The International Standards Organization recently shot down Microsoft's request that OOXML be given "fast track" status. Another vote is expected next year. In the meantime, Microsoft has been working with the ECMA TC45 committee to address concerns over OOXML, which critics have argued is too proprietary to merit certification as a standard.

GNOME's involvement in the effort recently sparked stern rebukes from backers of the Open Document Format (ODF), such as Russell Ossendryver, a member of the OpenDocument Fellowship. "It seems that GNOME is becoming Microsoft's cat's-paw to damage and slow down open source and open standards," he wrote.

But the organization's statement seeks to answer such charges. Jody Goldberg, lead maintainer for the GNOME-backed Gnumeric spreadsheet program, has worked with ECMA TC45. "The GNOME Foundation's support for Jody's participation in TC45-M does not indicate endorsement for, or contribution to, ISO standardisation of the Microsoft Office Open XML formats," it reads.

Goldberg had worked for Novell prior to June, and sat on the TC45 committee in that capacity, according to GNOME. He then left Novell and proposed that "the GNOME Foundation facilitate his work with TC45-M by joining ECMA as a nonprofit."

"The decision to participate in TC45-M was made by the Board as a direct result of Jody's request," GNOME's statement added. "It did not involve any third party influence or financial considerations at any point."

Goldberg has not been actively involved with the committee since July, but GNOME has preserved its membership in ECMA to allow his future participation, the group said.

GNOME's position on OOXML was also the subject of speculation following comments earlier this year from its founder, Miguel de Icaza, who dubbed OOXML a "superb standard." Icaza now works for Novell, which has a partnership with Microsoft to improve interoperability between the companies' respective platforms.

But GNOME's statement throws red meat to Microsoft's critics, characterizing the company's involvement in the standardization as self-serving: "Indeed, Microsoft continues to behave in the abusive manner of an unreformed, convicted monopolist with no passion for true industry collaboration in the interests of users."

The group also argues that neither OOXML nor ODF will serve all needs, and that the development of standards overall could be in jeopardy: "We are deeply concerned that abuse of the standards process is eroding public trust in the value and independence of international standards. Both ODF and OOXML are very heavily influenced by their implementation heritage, neither are likely to deliver the "one true office format," and both communities have -- in their own way -- played a role in this erosion of trust."

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Chris Kanaracus

IDG News Service
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