I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this, but there’s been a curious conflation of the ideas of the open standard OpenDocument format (ODF) and the concept of open source. Now there has long been confusion between open standards and open source, and that’s why I wrote the four part series last year that teased apart the two. At some point, the statue of limitations for confusion will run out and those that can’t keep them straight will just look silly, or worse. In the meanwhile, we all have to keep educating people on the difference.
I’m hoping that it is only confusion when I see press articles about open document legislation referred to as “open source laws.” Obviously, they are nothing of the sort.
The particular confusion around ODF is more serious because I think it is intended to extend the operating system fight from Windows vs. Linux to Windows/OOXML vs. Linux/ODF. That is, if one had in place machinery to boost Windows and fault Linux, then tacking on the document standards is just the next step. Those of us in the ODF camp do not see it that way. ODF is useful on any operating system and in any application that wishes to support it. That is, it is multiplatform and can be implemented in proprietary or open source software.
As to OOXML, right now it is essentially Windows-only and Microsoft Office only and it remains to be seen whether a complete and full implementation can ever be done on another platform. Supporters will be under a tremendous amount of pressure to 1) prove that anyone other than Microsoft can fully implement it, either for technical or legal reasons, and 2) prove that there will be many applications on multiple platforms that support it. Otherwise, it will will just die away as I have previously predicted.
So let’s divorce open source from open standards. Choose your operating system, proprietary or open source, and then carefully choose your open document standard to allow fully interoperability and interchangeability of applications.
Addendum: This entry was originally titled “ODF is not open source,” but that seemed to confuse some people. I augmented the title to make it a bit clearer, I hope.