Massachusetts Makes Smart Move Official

Opinion: Switch to OpenDocument format will make state documents more accessible to the public because anyone can have the software to read the format.

To say that fellow Ziff Davis Internet columnist David Coursey and I disagree on Massachusetts decision to require an open format for its documents is like saying dogs and cats are different.

Im a believer in open formats. I always have been. I always will be. And its good to see that Massachusetts gets it too.

Its really very simple. With an open standard, like OASIS OpenDocument, anyone at any time will be capable of using the format. Thats true of all open standards, from North Americas Type A & B electrical plugs to Wi-Fi networkings 802.11g to OpenDocument for office document formats.

Microsoft has claimed that its latest Office XML formats are just as open.

Almost no one outside of the Microsoft camp agrees.

For that matter, even Microsofts own Jean Paoli, senior director of XML architecture, has said, "I am not a lawyer and so am not the authority on this, but the GPL may not allow code that is attributable to another company like Microsoft to be included. But some other open-source licenses are compatible as far as I know."

Well, the author of the GPL and president of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman, has said that Microsofts conditions for its "open" XML lack the freedoms necessary to be considered free software. And Stallman should know, dont you think?

So, Massachusetts made the smart choice, the only intelligent choice, of going with a standard that is not ultimately under the control of one company.

Look at it this way, would you buy a car that only ran on Exxon gas? Buy a CD that would only play on a Toshiba-brand CD player? Of course not!

Coursey worries that Massachusetts has "selected a format that is not supported by a single currently shipping office suite."

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read why David Coursey calls Massachusetts move "dumb."

True, but so what? Nothing supports Microsoft Office 12s formats either.

Oh, you didnt know that?

The so-called open Office 2003 XML formats arent going to be Office 12s formats.

Next Page: OpenDocument has no secrets.