Experts leave Norwegian Standards Committee because of OOXML

Oct 06, 2008

On September 29, 13 out of 23 employees from the technical committee of Standard Norge signed an open letter announcing their resignations. The reason: Norway’s “yes” to OOXML

They say the walk out is a reaction to Standard Norge’s inability to judge standardization suggestions responsibly, and they point to the approval of Microsoft’s OOXML document format as ISO standard as proof of their allegations. According to the members, Standard Norge has paid more attention to (presumably) Microsoft-influenced proposal letters than to its own advisory committee, 80% of whom were against the decision to accept the format as standard. The letter voiced the opinion that Standard Norge had lost its credibility in the IT sector because it placed its own commercial interests above what is best for the institute, and above that which from a technical and professional point of view, would be advisable.

Sent as a press release to the Norwegian media, the letter was published the same day in the original language on the IT online portal Digi.no. Among the 13 who resigned are Steve Pepper and Hakon Wium Lie. Pepper is founder of the Oslo company Ontopia and director of the Norwegian ISO Standards committee, responsible for document description and processing languages. The Norwegian Lie has since 1999 been CTO of Opera Software. Earlier he worked for W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) where he introduced the CSS concept for the first time.

Standards Norge is the Norwegian representative in the international standardization organization CEN (Comité Européen de Normalisation) and ISO (International Standards Organization) and one of three national standardization institutions in Norway. The demonstrative resignations were preceded by a formal protest letter on March 31. 2008 and an angry speech at a demonstration in Oslo, both from Pepper. (Linux-Magazine reported)

The OOXML standardization process has been the subject of accusations and opposition towards its apparently antonymous stance since fall last year. In March, the German ISO body DIN, also released a statement concerning irregularities in the process. Middle of August, the standardization body dismissed the objections. The controversy surrounding the Microsoft document standards process has caused IBM to look skeptically at the ISO institution.

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