Groklaw Team Exposes Serious Flaws in Microsoft's OOXML Specification

by Jean Hollis Weber

Any doubts about the significant problems in Microsoft's OOXML specification should be dispelled by the impressive list of objections in an article published today on Groklaw: Deadline Looms to Express Concerns about ECMA 376 Office Open XML. This follows on from an earlier Groklaw article that I mentioned on Monday.

Rob Weir comments in his blog about the team that put together the list of objections:
"...this last weekend at Groklaw... a team of [around 20] volunteers attempted to review the 6,000 page Ecma Office Open XML specification. Since the specification is already two weeks into a 30-day review in ISO/IEC JTC1, a parallel approach was the indicated solution. The alternative, for each individual to review the specification in its entirety, would have required them to read at the rate of 200-pages/day for a month...

"What they found is amazing... I have been reading the OOXML specification, on and off, for a few months now, noting in this blog the problems I've seen. I thought I had a good grasp of the problems. But I was wrong. I was just scratching the surface. The Microsoft guys think I have been complaining too much. But it now looks like I wasn't complaining enough."

Even if you're a supporter of the proposition that two standards are a good thing, you should be opposed to "fast-tracking" a specification as long, complex, and full of flaws as this one. It should be subjected to ISO's normal processes. ECMA should be embarrassed that they approved the spec without identifying and resolving the problems.


M. David Peterson
2007-01-24 14:46:18
Okay, so I took a brief glance over this document, and have found myself laughing at some of the "serious flaws" they believe have been exposed. Making statements like "They don't provide support for "SVG, a W3C standard", to then go on a rant about VML showcases that these folks need to stick to interpreting the law, instead of attempting to understand technology. SVG has been struggling to find support since the day it became a standard, and the one full implementation of it (though Opera and their 1% browser market share does provide a very nice processor) -- Adobe's SVG engine -- has been dropped by Adobe, with an end of life support cycle slated to take place in just under two years.

Mozilla provides *some* support, but it still has a ways to go, and with Adobe's recent open-sourced donation of the Flash/ActionScript engine (see: for more detail) one has to wonder if the incentive to finish out support for SVG has all but disappeared, replaced instead by Adobe/Macromedia's previously proprietary vector graphics processing engine.

The point: SVG is a dieing technology which had very little industry support in the first place, even before Adobe announced they would no longer be supporting their SVG engine. It's sad, I will admit, because its a good technology -- but none-the-less, the prospects across the industry are grim to say the least. So to suggest that "MSFT doesn't provide support for the "industry standard" SVG (actually, I believe they only use the term W3C standard, but the language is designed to suggest this to be interpreted to be a much bigger deal that it actually is) -- and instead they provide support for something called "VML" which, as crazy as it might sound, actually has more widespread support than SVG could even dream of having --

Well, like I said... The folks at Groklaw and the various volunteers in which have developed this study need to either start reading up on the reality of the technology landscape, or they need to place their focus back on the interpretation of law, instead of pretending they have half a clue about the world of technology.

Quite obviously (after reading this paper) they do not.

Steve Pole
2007-01-24 16:08:16
Adobe has dropped support for SVG ? Nonsense !
They won't support their SVG Viewer from Jan 2007 on and won't make it available from Jan 2008 on (see also, but their support for SVG is alive and well - as is the rest of the industry's support.

Please get informed before spreading FUD.

Felix Pahl
2007-12-06 08:52:47
The announcement linked to above says that Adobe donated a scripting engine, not a vector graphics processing engine. It handles scripts; it doesn't render vector graphics.