The Norwegians get it!

by Rick Jelliffe

Very happy to see the recent report that Norway is adopting a standards-based policy for public (external) documents hosted on websites, pretty much along the lines that I have been calling for (some reminders below)[5] identifying when formats are appropriate [1]:

  • W3C XHTML or HTML is still possible [2][4]

  • ISO PDF/A (or Adobe PDF1.4, I hope temporarily) for finished documents [3]

  • ISO ODF for documents "still being worked on" [3][4]

  • Allow other formats in addition, as long as the required formats are available [2]

  • An acknowledgement that Open XML is "a better format for preserving semantics and special formats from Microsoft's proprietary binary formats," [4]

I expect that Open XML becoming an ISO standard would not change these minimum requirements for web-hosted public documents, and neither should it IMHO. I think it shows that governments and regulators are perfectly capable of treating the available standards as a technical library[6] and selecting the correct one for each job as they see fit. It shows again that being pro-ODF for public documents does not require that one is anti-Open XML as an ISO standard, as part of the library: regulators and legislators are the appropriate people to decide which standards to favour for different uses.

At some time in the future, I suspect these kinds of recommendations will need to be strengthened. Which version of ODF (etc.)? Which profile? (And I still think that HTML and web delivery have a momentum and logic that makes both ODF and Open XML second-class citizens for public documents: don't forget HTML!)