News

Collective approach to internet attacks big success in the Netherlands 2014/06/30

Erik Huizer inaugurated in Internet Hall of Fame 2014/04/08

Awards February 2014 2014/04/01

Marc Gauw appointed new General Director of NLnet 2014/01/09

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Open Document Format

"A disruptive technology in disguise"

The standardisation of the Open Document Format (ISO 26300:2006) took five years of hard work within OASIS. In 2006 the unanimous approval of this XML-based universal Office-format within the International Standards Organisation ISO meant a clear slope change point for innovation and market reach of open standards and open source in general. Governments, companies and individuals quickly recognised the enormous importance of having a way of encoding information that is truly portable across applications, operating systems and vendors as well as not having any problems crossing the barriers of time.

ODF spawned a collective move away from company-dictated file formats that can only be adequately opened by a single application from a single vendor. We now understand that we want open standards that are oblivious with respect to the software used to generate or edit them. Good formats like ODF make global interoperability and the free flow of information a reality, which is a real breakthrough for the entire ICT world. The huge amount of active support ODF received from the ICT industry itself --and from society at large too-- is a testimony to that fact.

Society doesn't change overnight, although the pace is astounding. In the past twenty years the lack of a mature open standard for information exchange at the document level has caused a very unhealthy de facto monoculture with fallout well beyond the operating system and productivity software where things started. These negative consequences move far beyond the economic realm and range from an increased digital divide and innovation poverty to large-scale cyber criminality and botnets such as Storm that are able to almost push countries off the internet.

A self-imposed social acceptance of closed formats is sometimes difficult to break through, but with the dominant binary formats of the past being deprecated by their vendors themselves the situation looks very bright. The market has learned from the past, and with the file format decoupled from the applications there is no learning curve, a low cost of switching and most of all: an open market for innovation. And that is what we are seeing: great innovations taking place because people can move into the containers they were locked out for decades.

Open Document Format is vendor independent and it's proven technology. It starts at no cost with full functionality and fidelity. And there are no hidden tricks, no opportunities for sabotage of inconvenient competitors. Because many of the leading players in the ODF arena (such as IBM Lotus Symphony, OpenOffice, KOffice, Abiword, the various plugins for Microsoft Word) are open source applications, there is 'full disclosure' and a very efficient 'best of breed' model built around ODF.

NLnet foundation sees ODF as a key technology for the future of our society, which is why we plan to significantly fund a number of efforts in the area of ODF. From tools for collaboration to contributing to standardisation, from education and raising awareness to developer libraries --we will be doing our best to contribute where possible.

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