Today is Document Freedom Day: Roughly 200 teams from more than 60 countries worldwide are organising local activities to raise awareness for Document Freedom and Open Standards.
What does this mean for mean personally? Less than one would expect. I have been advocating the use of Open Document formats (such as ODF) for the past two years already, and try to do so whenever possible.
People react very differntly when I raise this issue. Some appreciate being informed that there are Open Document formats, which guarantee interoperability with everyone, but others tend to tell me "everyone uses [Microsoft] Office, isn't that format a standard?". The answer is always the same: NO.
Neither the old proprietary Microsoft Office format, nor the new format, OOXML are standards in my opinion and here is why:
The old format is not documented at all, and no international standards body, such as the ISO, have ever made this format a standard.
The new format, OOXML, which is in the news quite often lately, is being pushed to be made an ISO standard. People often think that, as documentation (which is said to be of poor quality) is available, making this format an international standard would be a good thing.
I am afraid I have to say NO once again here. There are too many references to the old proprietary format, which is a huge no-go for something that should become an international standard.
Also, there already is an international standard for office documents, ODF. In my opinion there is no point in having two separate standards for the same thing and the chance of such a situation causing a lot of havoc is quite good.
So, personally I have to say that I quite often suggested people to switch to OpenOffice.Org lately, instead of buying Microsoft's latest Office suite. Document Freedom and the use of Free Software are not my main arguments lately, but rather that people switching to OpenOffice.Org now do not have to learn how to use a new user-interface. People are lazy, and this argument works perfectly.
And there is yet another point for using Open Standards in IT:
Think of the Internet and where it would be without Open Standards (and also Free Software). Think of how everything on the Internet would work together. Think of one browser supporting only its own network protocol (which of course would be proprietary) and other browsers only supporting theirs. The Internet would not be what it is today without Open Standards and guaranteed interoperability.
More information about the Document Freedom day can be found in the last news entry over at documentfreedom.org.