Take action by July 20 to stop Microsoft's sabotage of open standards in Massachusetts
The FSF has been campaigning since 2005 in support of Massachusetts adopting a free and open format, Open Document Format (ODF), as its standard for document storage and production.
For just as long, Microsoft has been attempting to sabotage support for a free standard. They would prefer that governments and their citizens stay locked into proprietary formats and licensing agreements. They would prefer that anyone attempting to access public information be forced to depend on Microsoft.
Recognizing that public opinion is overwhelmingly in support of free and open formats for documents that belong to the public, Microsoft named their latest effort at sabotaging the process accordingly: Office Open XML Formats (Open XML).
Despite the misleading name, Microsoft's format is not open. Microsoft has not explicitly granted any rights for vendors other than Microsoft to implement the specification. They expect everyone to trust vague, unusual, and poorly worded promises not to sue. Their proposal conflicts directly with a number of existing and accepted open standards, and so seems quite clearly to be an effort to replace current open standards with something controlled by a single proprietary vendor (who also happens to be a convicted monopolist).
Our government and citizens deserve much better than that. Unfortunately, Massachusetts is seriously considering allowing usage of Microsoft's format for government documents.
The draft framework for defining acceptable standards, which is called the Enterprise Technical Reference Model (ETRM), is open for public comment until Friday, July 20th.
If you are a Massachusetts resident, please let acting Massachusetts CIO Bethann Pepoli know that Microsoft's format is not an open standard, and that it should be removed from consideration.
Also, remember that you can further show your support for free software usage in Massachusetts government by casting a vote in favor of the issue at Deval Patrick's web site.
If you are not a Massachusetts resident, please do some research to find out what's going on in your own government. Let us know what you find so we can take action.
A wealth of information detailing problems with the Microsoft format can be found at Groklaw. FSF Europe has written a list of questions that need to be answered before any of us are convinced that MS-OOXML is actually an open standard.