Update 2004-11-23: "IBM, Microsoft, and Sun Respond to TAC Recommendation on Open Document Exchange Format." The EC's Telematics Between Administrations Committee (TAC) reports that it has received positive responses from Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, and IBM relative to the IDA Expert Group recommendations on adoption of an Open Document Exchange Format. IDA said the responses represent a significant step on the way to establishing fully interoperable and seamlessly connected public administrations throughout Europe by enabling transparent document transactions.
[June 17, 2004] The TAC (Telematics Between Administrations Committee) of the EC's IDA Community Programme has announced approval of an expert group's conclusions and recommendations on open document formats, with special focus upon XML formats in OpenOffice.Org and WordML.
IDA (Interchange of Data between Administrations) is "a Community Programme managed by the European Commission's Enterprise Directorate General. IDA supports the implementation of EU legislation, from internal market regulations to consumer and health policies, by facilitating the exchange of information between public administrations across Europe through the use of information technology."
"The TAC, which guides the Community programme for the Interchange of Data between Administrations (IDA), gave its support to recommendations that were prepared by a group of experts from EU Member States, based on an IDA report on the current market situation for document formats. While suggesting that the public sector should make use of XML-based document formats, the recommendations place particular importance on standardisation to ensure market access to industry actors.
The TAC endorsed the IDA Expert Group's recommendations at a May 25, 2004 meeting, recognizing "the special responsibility of the European public sector to ensure the accessibility of its information, with a view to rationalising and improving the interactions with citizens and enterprises, and taking into account the importance of the public sector as buyer of IT services and products."
The Expert Group stated that standardization initiatives "will ensure not only a fair and competitive market but will also help safeguard the interoperability of implementing solutions whilst preserving competition and innovation. Therefore, the submission of the OpenOffice.Org format to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) in order to adopt it as the OASIS Open Office Standard should be welcomed."
Further, "Industry is encouraged to provide filters that allow documents based on the WordML specifications and the emerging OASIS Open Document Format to be read and written to other applications whilst maintaining a maximum degree of faithfulness to content, structure and presentation; these filters should be made available for all products."
TAC Approval on Conclusions and Recommendations on Open Document Formats. From the IDA Telematics between Administrations Committee (TAC). 2004-06-03
Comparative Assessment of Open Documents Formats. Market Overview. Final Assessment Report. ENTR/02/21-IDA/MIDDLEWARE-XML. By Valoris. Specific agreement n3 - IDA.20030523. 78 pages.
From the IDA Expert Group Conclusions and Recommendations
"Industry has taken important steps to address the requirements and concerns of the public sector regarding the use of document formats. The publication of the OpenOffice.Org and WordML formats has greatly improved the potential for interoperability of document processing.
Communications between the public sector and citizens, businesses and other administrations are frequently documents-based. Not all documents need to be revisable, and non-revisable formats may pose less interoperability problems.
Where electronic, revisable documents are required, XML-based formats hold the promise of separating content, structure, semantics and presentation. A range of applications are available that support XML-based formats.
Because of its specific role in society, the public sector must avoid that a specific product is forced on anyone interacting with it electronically. Conversely, any document format that does not discriminate against market actors and that can be implemented across platforms should be encouraged.
Likewise, the public sector should avoid any format that does not safeguard equal opportunities to market actors to implement format-processing applications, especially where this might impose product selection on the side of citizens or businesses.
In this respect standardisation initiatives will ensure not only a fair and competitive market but will also help safeguard the interoperability of implementing solutions whilst preserving competition and innovation. Therefore, the submission of the OpenOffice.Org format to the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) in order to adopt it as the OASIS Open Office Standard should be welcomed.
With these considerations in mind a number of short-comings of current document formats need to be addressed. It should also be recognised that XML-based formats cannot become the preferred document technology in communication with citizens and businesses until there is sufficient take-up of applications that support these."
Specific Recommendations of the IDA Expert Group and IDA TAC
[...] "Therefore, it is recommended that:
- The OASIS Technical Committee considers whether there is a need and opportunity for extending the emerging OASIS Open Document Format to allow for custom-defined schemas
- Industry actors not currently involved with the OASIS Open Document Format consider participating in the standardisation process in order to encourage a wider industry consensus around the format
- Submission of the emerging OASIS Open Document Format to an official standardisation organisation such as ISO is considered
- Microsoft considers issuing a public commitment to publish and provide non-discriminatory access to future versions of its WordML specifications
- Microsoft should consider the merits of submitting XML formats to an international standards body of their choice
- Microsoft assesses the possibility of excluding non-XML formatted components from WordML documents
- Industry is encouraged to provide filters that allow documents based on the WordML specifications and the emerging OASIS Open Document Format to be read and written to other applications whilst maintaining a maximum degree of faithfulness to content, structure and presentation. These filters should be made available for all products
- Industry is encouraged to provide the appropriate tools and services to allow the public sector to consider feasibility and costs of a transformation of its documents to XML-based formats
- The public sector is encouraged to provide its information through several formats. Where by choice or circumstance only a single revisable document format can be used this should be for a format around which there is industry consensus, as demonstrated by the format's adoption as a standard"
Tim Bray's Summary of the Brussels Meeting
In 15 Science Street (Rue de la Science) Tim Bray blogs the Brussels meeting of March 23, 2004 in which he participated (for Sun):
"Four of us from Sun stood at the front of a smallish committee room in the building on Science Street, crowded with thirty or so IT policymakers from around Europe. The question: should the European Commission standardize on an Office Document Data Format? And if so, should it be OpenOffice.org XML or Microsoft XML?...
You can find some of the materials on the EC Web site. Our basic points were first that the Office XML formats are incomplete (no PowerPoint, missing pieces in Excel), second that the licensing terms are kind of scary (our lawyer's acid-tongued comments have been excised from the online papers), third that the OO.o format is much more reusability-oriented, and finally that Microsoft has iron control over every aspect of their XML, while the OO.o format is well on its way to being an OASIS standard.
Microsoft's main talking point (I'm guessing here from the public documents) was that their software and format had the advantage that in WordML you can edit documents from arbitrary schemas.
Our pushback on that was that editing arbitrary-schema documents is damn hard and damn expensive and has never been anything more than a niche business. I don't know what their pushback on our points about completeness and licensing and control and so on was.
... As we were winding up, a couple of really smart people (don't know who they were) put up their hands and asked real good questions. The best was essentially 'What would you like to see happen?' After some back and forth, I ended up with 'You should have the right to own your own information. It's your intellectual capital and you worked hard to produce it for your citizens. Sun doesn't own it, Microsoft doesn't own it, you own it, and that means it should be living in a nice, long-lived, non-proprietary data format that isn't anyone's competitive weapon.'
Which is really what it's all about..."
"IDA, which stands for the Interchange of Data between Administrations, is a Community Programme managed by the European Commission's Enterprise Directorate General. IDA supports the implementation of EU legislation, from internal market regulations to consumer and health policies, by facilitating the exchange of information between public administrations across Europe through the use of information technology.
IDA works through the implementation of Projects of Common Interest (PCIs), which focus on the use of IT solutions for specific sectors, and Horizontal Actions and Measures (HAMs), which cover cross-sector networks, services and tools.
The IDA Programme is managed by the Enterprise Directorate General, working in close cooperation with the Member States represented at the IDA Telematics between Administrations Committee (TAC) and the different European Commission's services represented in the IDA Inter-Service Group. Cooperation with the TAC ensures overall coordination of the Programme, budget allocation and the establishment of a yearly work programme. Concrete discussions and decisions relative to HAMs and PCIs are respectively performed through the TAC-WHAM (Working Group on Horizontal Actions and Measures) and the Inter-Service Group.
IDA is all about the modernisation of the European public sector, and information technologies (IT) are an essential tool to this aim. Efficiency and service-orientation is more than a question of internal organisation and local use of modern technologies. In the EU, a key aspect is that of interoperability, of the ability of public sector administrations to communicate easily with their counterparts and with the European citizen and business, not just across organisations but also across frontiers.
Open source software presents an opportunity to encourage the uptake of cost-effective IT solutions. It facilitates the sharing of applications between public sector organisations and thus promotes the spread of good practice. The eEurope action plan has introduced the term application templates to describe this capability, and releasing applications used by governments in the EU as open source software will allow other public bodies to modernise more quickly..." [from About and the FAQ document]
- "TAC approval on conclusions and recommendations on open document formats." 2004-06-03 or later.
- "Comparative assessment of Open Documents Formats. Market Overview." [cache]
- EU eGovernment policy-makers encourage the uptake of open document formats
- 15 Science Street. Tim Bray's blog covering the Brussels meeting of March 23, 2004
- Open document formats. Jon Udell blog entry.
- Sun Microsystems' comments on the Valoris report
- Microsoft's comments on the Valoris report
- Microsoft Office System - EU's IDA Commission Recommends Open Document Formats. An Open Letter From Senior Director and XML Architect Jean Paoli.
- Interchange of Data between Administrations (IDA)
- IDA FAq document
- IDA Telematics between Administrations Committee (TAC)
- European Union
- OASIS Open Office XML Format TC
- "OASIS Open Office XML Format TC Approves Committee Draft Specification." News story 2004-04-07.
- "OpenOffice.org XML File Format."
- "Microsoft Office 11 and InfoPath/XDocs/WordML."
- "XML File Formats for Office Documents."