Google welcomes ISO decision on OOXML

September 14, 2007

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Google welcomes the ISO decision to not approve the fast track of Office Open XML (OOXML) proposed standard DIS 29500 (ECMA 376).

Our engineers conducted an independent analysis of the OOXML specification and found several areas of concern, which we communicated both to the ISO and to the public. These include and are not limited to the following:
  • for a specification of this size it was not given enough time for review;
  • the undocumented features of OOXML prevents its implementation by other vendors;
  • dependencies on other Microsoft proprietary formats and their technical defects makes it difficult to fully implement; and
  • the overall cost for vendors of implementing multiple standards (hence the lack of OOXML implementations in the marketplace).
It is also incompatible with the existing ISO standard ISO 26300:2006, the Open Document Format (ODF), which already offers a high degree of interoperability, wide support, and offers the level playing field the world needs. Google is a supporter of ODF and has successfully integrated this open format into Google Docs and Spreadsheets. ODF also enjoys implementation in over twelve other products.

The ISO approval required at least 2/3 (i.e., 66.66%) of the votes cast by participating (P) members to be positive, and no more than 1/4 (i.e., 25%) of the total number of national body votes cast negative. Neither of these criteria were met by the proposed standard.

The concerns from many technical experts around the world were submitted as comments by the voting bodies to ISO on September 2, 2007. These must now be resolved at a Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) on February 25-29, 2008. In contrast, ODF was approved unanimously (23-0 among P members, 31-0 overall) as an international standard by ISO in May 2006.

As we represented our position in many countries, we were encouraged by the process observed in some places that truly evaluated the proposed standard on its technical merits as well as the feasibility of implementing the standard for the people of the country. These countries successfully declined or abstained due to insufficient information about the standard or the lack of time to evaluate the specification. In addition, many irregularities have been reported in the voting process (see here, here and here).

Technical standards should be arrived at transparently, openly, and based on technical merit. Google is committed to helping the standards community remain true to this ideal and maintain their independence from any commercial pressure.

Google supports one open document format and calls on industry participants to collaboratively work on ODF. With multiple implementations of one open standard for documents, users, businesses and governments around the world can have both choice and freedom to access their own documents, share with others and pass onto future generations.