Debate Simmers on Why ODF Foundation Shuttered its Doors

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.

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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