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UKUUG Press Release on BSI and OOXML

Wednesday 9th April 2008

The UKUUG yesterday issued the following press release.


Press Release -- Tuesday 8 April 2008

UKUUG seeks legal advice on BSI's OOXML decision

Last week the BSI (The British Standards Institution) decided to approve the fast tracking of the Microsoft sponsored OOXML format (DIS29500).

UKUUG is concerned that this decision is against the public interest for several reasons:

  • The current draft attracted over 1000 unique comments (i.e. corrections), of which the largest list (635) was from BSI itself. How does BSI then approve fast tracking, in the absence of a revised draft?
  • By accepting an unfinished draft into the fast track standards route can only serve to harm the sector to which the standard will apply, as well as undermining wider faith in the standards bodies who are allowing this to happen.
  • Given the absence of a single implementation of the standard, not even Microsoft are willing to state when they'll implement it, it seems hard to justify the fast tracking on the basis of urgent market need.
  • Rejection of the fast track is not rejection of the standard. If this standard were put on the slow track, there would then be time for all involved to examine the 6000 plus pages in the detail that such an important standard needs if we are to rely on it into the future.
  • To be fast tracked a proposed standard needs a high level of consensus, whereas OOXML has been marked by high levels of disagreement and controversy.

That being the case, the UKUUG is seeking legal advice on how best to proceed in order to convince BSI to reconsider its decision and instead raise an objection to the fast tracking of the standard within the 2 month window allowed by the ISO.

Alain Williams, Chairman of UKUUG, said:

"We are very disappointed that BSI has chosen to take this decision against the advice of its technical committee. The format used for storage of documents will affect our lives for decades to come, and it is imperative that standards such as OOXML are given a rigorous review rather than being rubber-stamped by BSI. Where would we be if the original Magna Carta was unreadable ?"

Previous proprietary document formats have become difficult or impossible to read within little more than a decade. There is no reason to believe this trend will not continue if allowed so to do. Without open standards for our documents we are likely to inflict a 'digital dark-age' on our descendants when they discover that they are unable to read any of the sources for their history, such as Government records, acts of Parliament, property title deeds, scientific research papers, and family histories. They will not forgive us if we fail to act to protect them now, but instead allow another generation of poorly specified proprietary standards to become widely adopted.

UKUUG calls on all that share our dissatisfaction with BSI to join us in an effort to save them from their folly, and so ensure that lasting harm is averted.

-- ENDS --

Editor's Notes:

UKUUG is the UK's Open Systems User Group, for people who care about open IT standards and the systems that implement them. UKUUG promotes education and understanding through its newsletter, regular briefings and conferences. It is independent of any industry groupings and not-for-profit. It values intelligence, thoughtfulness and long-term thinking rather than immediacy and froth.

BSI: Since its foundation in 1901 as the Engineering Standards Committee, BSI Group has grown into a leading global independent business services organization. The Group now operates globally through its three divisions: BSI British Standards, BSI Management Systems and BSI Product Services.

For further information about UKUUG visit:

Tel: 01763 273475

For an overview of the story behind this visit: