31 August 2007

The Next Great Microsoft Lock-in

I've written a lot here and elsewhere about Microsoft's faux-open file format OOXML. I've also noted that there is an unhealthily close relationship between the BBC and Microsoft over the former's iPlayer and its chosen file formats. Now it seems that this kind of chummy lock-in is happening elsewhere, at the UK's National Archives and beyond.

The National Archive story is not new, but dates back to July of this year, when I first noted it. Here's what a Microsoftie said:

The announcement we just made with the National Archives is trying to address the issue of digital conservation head-on. With billions of documents in the world wrapped up in proprietary document formats (from Microsoft and many many other vendors) we felt it was important to focus on how we can help the body in the UK which has the biggest headache and do what we can to assist them in:

* Migrating documents to the latest Office format (Open XML) via our document conversion tools to ensure they can be accessed by the public in the future

Since then, people have started taking notice, to the extent that there is now an e-petition all us Brits can sign asking that nice Mr Brown to use ODF instead of OOXML for the National Archives (but don't hold your breath.)

However, I've just noticed that the Microsoftie quoted above mentions this little factette:

Well, we've actually been working with The British Library and The National Archive for about 18 months now on digital preservation with some other European organisations as members of an EU project called Planets.

And as far as the latter is concerned:

The Planets consortium brings together the unique experience required to research, develop, deliver and productise practical digital preservation solutions. Coordinated by the British Library

The British Library, you may recall, is also in cahoots with Microsoft when it comes to locking up our digital heritage. Some now we have the prospect of the OOXML cancer spreading to other institutions, and large chunks of European culture being locked up in proprietary formats.

This is getting serious. It's obviously time to call in the heavy mob: the Open Source Consortium....


Anonymous said...

"OOXML cancer"

Yep. OOXML is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to every office file it touches. Damn...that sounds familiar. ;)

Things are really heating up with the ISO voting. Have you heard what happened in Sweden? And that's just one example.

Glyn Moody said...

Yes, Sweden and elsewhere is outrageous. But it's also largely public, so I think this is going to come back to haunt Microsoft soon.

The Open Sourcerer said...

There's one point nobody seems to have picked up on when the National Archive debarcle got announced:

“Adam Farquhar, Head of eArchitecture at the British Library and co-chair of the Office OpenXML standards committee said:…”

Head of our British Library AND chair of Microsoft’s document specification steam roller? Hmmmm… doesn’t sound too impartial to me, does it to you?

I have recently had email conversations with George Osbourne (MP and Shadow Chancellor) who has been a strong advocate of Open Source in the past and with my Local MP, Jeremy Hunt, to highlight the scandal that is M$ and the opportunity that is FOSS. I suggest that anyone interested should do the same.

Glyn Moody said...

Well, that was my general point, but thanks for spelling it out.

I wrote this post because it seems to me that this becoming a real and major problem - and something those of us in favour of openness of all kinds need to address through the kind of actions you have already undertaken.