There’s been a lot of debate in the community about how OSI should properly handle Microsoft’s planned submission of some of its licenses for OSD certification. That debate has been been going on within OSI, too.
OSI’s official position, from the beginning, which I helped formulate and have expressed to any number of reporters and analysts, is that OSI will treat any licenses submitted to Microsoft strictly on their merits, without fear or favor. That remains OSI’s position. But…
But I find that my resolve is being sorely tested. Because Microsoft’s behavior in the last few months with respect to OOXML has been egregious. They haven’t stopped at pushing a “standard” that is divisive, technically bogus, and an obvious tool of monopoly lock-in; they have resorted to lying, ballot-stuffing, committee-packing, and outright bribery to ram it through the ISO standardization process in ways that violate ISO’s own guidelines wholesale.
If Microsoft succeeds (which is beginning to look likely) they will have not merely damaged the prospects of open-source software, they will have ruined the good name of ISO by corrupting its people and processes. Because if OOXML, with all its huge flaws, really does pass, no one who has been conscious while this was going on is going to believe the process it passed through wasn’t a charade bought and paid for by Microsoft marketing.
There is always, of course, a certain amount of corporate gaming of technical standards. But, generally speaking, the process works; it creates conditions under which users get more choices and markets clear more efficiently than they would without the standards.
That’s why the destruction of ISO’s reputation would be a calamity. The trust it has built up over many years is an asset worth all of the billions of dollars in friction costs avoided by standardization and thus not paid by the entire community of computer and telecomms users. Microsoft, in an attempt to preserve its Office monopoly, is making a determined effort to destroy that value.
This is not behavior that we, as a community, can live with. Despite my previous determination, I find I’m almost ready to recommend that OSI tell Microsoft to ram its licenses up one of its own orifices, even if they are technically OSD compliant. Because what good is it to conform to the letter of OSD if you’re raping its spirit?