OpenDocument Movement Gains Steam

The OpenDocument Format Alliance's membership has more than tripled since its launch; it cites a "groundswell of support" as the reason for its rapid growth.

Membership in the OpenDocument Format Alliance has almost quadrupled over the past month.

The Alliance, a coalition of organizations from across the world whose goal is to enable governments to have direct management and greater control over their documents, was launched on March 3 with 36 initial members, but that has now grown to 138 members worldwide.

The Alliance is trying to promote and advance the use of the ODF (OpenDocument Format), which it says will allow the exchange of documents to take place without regard to the application or platform in which the document was created—both now and in the future.

And that is the reason it is giving for its rapid growth and the "groundswell of support" that has developed behind the ODF.

"In just a few weeks, theres been terrific momentum in support for the OpenDocument Format from across the globe," said Ken Wasch, the president of the Software & Information Industry Association and a member of the Alliance.

"This diverse support grows everyday and ranges from the city of Bloomington, Indiana, and the National Archives of Australia to the Indian Institute of Technology and the Bristol City Council [United Kingdom]. All of our supporters know that ODF represents a better way for all governments to preserve, access and better control their documents," he said in a statement.

The Alliance has also appointed Marino Marcich as managing director, and he will work to educate policy makers on the benefits and opportunities around ODF and push its use by governments.

Prior to this position, Marcich was vice president of Dutko Global Advisors, an international strategy and management firm.

He was also previously an official at the U.S. State Department, working in Brussels advising companies on global strategies relating to regulation, standardization and trade issues.

But the Alliances establishment has not been without controversy, with Microsoft accusing it of pushing an exclusive standard to the detriment of all others and not enabling choice.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about the intensifying battle between OpenXML format and the OpenDocument Format.

The Alliance is positioning the XML-based ODF as the alternative to other document formats like Microsofts OpenXML, which is the new file format that will be used in Office 2007 when it ships later in 2006.

But there is some concern that this new file format could significantly slow the adoption of Office 2007.

Many of the supporters of the Alliance are also Microsofts Linux and open-source foes such as Corel, IBM, Novell, OpenOffice.org, Opera Software, Oracle, Red Hat and Sun Microsystems, which is aggressively pushing for greater adoption of ODF.

/zimages/4/28571.gifRead more here about Suns push for greater adoption of the ODF.

But Microsoft is fighting back and trying to convince people that its OpenXML is an "open" standard thats every bit as good as the ODF.

In March 2006, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates, speaking at the Microsoft Office System Developers Conference, announced that the company has joined with 39 other organizations to form the Open XML Formats Developer Group.

At the time, Microsoft claimed that Apple, Intel and numerous Microsoft partners and resellers, such as InterKnowlogy and The Computer Solution Company, had joined the OpenXML group.

The ODF Alliance is also actively supporting the proposed adoption of the Open Document Format as a worldwide standard of the ISO (International Standards Organization) and the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission).

The six-month approval ballot began Nov. 1, 2005, and ends May 1, 2006.

"The ODF Alliance and its members have contacted various national voting entities recommending approval and are optimistic of a positive outcome," Wasch said.

For its part, Microsofts application to standards body Ecma International to produce a standard for office productivity applications that is compatible with its Office Open XML Formats, has been accepted.

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.