Debate Simmers on Why ODF Foundation Shuttered its Doors

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-11-27 Print this article Print

Foundation president Gary Edwards says changes to Oasis' membership rules forced the organization to shut down.

Editors Note: This is the first in a series of articles that examine why the ODF Foundation closed down. Did the OpenDocument Foundation recently shutter its doors for good because it was unable to convince Oasis to support its converter, known as Da Vinci? Or was it because OpenDocument Format was simply not designed for the conversion of Microsoft Office documents, applications, and processes? The debate on these issues continues two weeks after foundation members confirmed the organization had shut down.
Marino Marcich, the managing director of the ODF Alliance, an advocacy group of vendors, academic groups and technical organizations, told eWEEK that the Foundation had proposed advances to Da Vinci, its plug-in for providing interoperability between Microsofts binary formats and ODF, in the Oasis OpenDocument Technical Committee.
Oasis, the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, is the body that "owns" the Open Document Format specification. "Their proposal was treated seriously, discussed at great length and voted down by a very wide margin, with even former members of the Foundation voting against it," he said. The Foundation, which was formed as a 501(3)(c) nonprofit corporation dedicated to promoting the OpenDocument Format, had been doing just that in 2005 and 2006 along with an energetic group of volunteers, he said. To read more about how the document format dispute spilled into the open, click here. "But in recent months their rhetoric became increasingly strident and their energies focused on promoting Da Vinci. This lead to the vast majority of their membership resigning, so that only three members remained: Gary Edwards, Paul Merrill, and Sam Hiser," Marcich said. But Gary Edwards, the founding president of the Foundation, does not see it that way. He believes that the Foundation did not move away from ODF, but rather was unable to convince Oasis of certain market requirements that challenged, and ultimately defeated, the successful implementation of ODF in Massachusetts. "We needed to make some generic interoperability enhancements to ODF to meet the Massachusetts market requirements, which essentially were that ODF be enhanced to be compatible with existing Microsoft documents and interoperable with existing Microsoft Office applications and processes," he said. "The long and the short of it is that none of our interoperability enhancements survived the April 2007 Oasis votes. This effectively ended any hope that ODF version 1.2 could be used as a solution anywhere that Microsoft Office workgroups were dominant." The bottom line was that ODF was not designed for the conversion of Office documents, applications, and processes, he said. "Sadly, it might be years before we have another chance to bring ODF into that higher level of compatibility—interoperability with existing Microsoft Office documents, applications, and processes that could ease the disruptive cost of transitioning to ODF," Edwards said. Page 2: Why the ODF Shuttered its Doors

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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