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W3C's Chris Lilley: CDF Not Suitable for Use as an Office Format & Can't Replace ODF
Friday, November 09 2007 @ 12:01 PM EST

I put the link to Andy Updegrove's article in News Picks earlier, but this is too important not to inform you about here as well. As you know the so-called OpenDocument Foundation has been telling the world that CDF is a better approach than ODF. Updegrove met with W3C's Chris Lilley, the "go-to guy guy at W3C to learn what W3C's CDF standard is all about." Lilley says CDF can't replace ODF. It's not suitable for use as an office format, and he's mystified by the pronouncements of the Foundation.

Here's what Updegrove reports:
To find out the facts, I interviewed Chris Lilley, the W3C lead for the CDF project, and his answer couldn't have been more clear: "The one thing I'd really want your readers to know is that CDF was not created to be, and isn't suitable for use as, an office format." In fact, it isn't even an format at all - although it has been matched for export purposes with another W3C specification, called WICD - but WICD is a non-editable format intended for viewing only. Moreover, no one from the Foundation has joined W3C, nor explained to W3C what the Foundation's founders have in mind.

It is highly unfortunate that the founders of a tax exempt organization that solicited donations, "To support the community of volunteers in promoting, improving and providing user assistance for ODF and software designed to operate on data in this format," should publicly announce that it believes that ODF will fail. By endorsing a standard that has no rational relationship to office formats at all, they can only serve to confuse the marketplace and undermine the efforts of the global community they claimed to serve.

So, there you have it, straight from the horse's mouth. CDF can't replace ODF, according to Lilley. It wasn't designed to be used as an office format. It's good for other things.

So, was all this media push really about ODF? Or about damaging it with FUD and giving support to Microsoft's assertion that the world craves more than one office format standard so we can all struggle with interoperability complexity for the rest of our born days? And is it a coincidence it all happened on the eve of the next vote in February on Microsoft's competing MSOOXML? Was Microsoft behind this? Or did they just get lucky? Microsoft representatives, like Jason Matusow, certainly gave support to what the 3-man crew was saying, so much so that ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley wrote that, "the ODF camp might unravel before Microsoft’s rival Office Open XML (OOXML) comes up for final international standardization vote early next year." Dream on. ODF is doing fine. It's the OpenDocument Foundation that is shutting down.

But here's my question: did the Microsoft reps not understand the tech, that CDF can't replace ODF? How trust-inspiring do you find that? Or did they think that *we'd* never figure it out? Whatever the story might be, unfortunately for Microsoft, people aren't as dumb as Microsoft needs them to be. FUD has a very limited shelf life in the Internet age. There is always somebody who knows better. And they'll tell the world.


W3C's Chris Lilley: CDF Not Suitable for Use as an Office Format & Can't Replace ODF | 270 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: bsm2003 on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 12:09 PM EST

[ Reply to This | # ]

News Pick Discussions Here
Authored by: bsm2003 on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 12:11 PM EST

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic Here
Authored by: bsm2003 on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 12:12 PM EST

[ Reply to This | # ]

amazing how three loud people
Authored by: Carla Schroder on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 12:34 PM EST
...can stir up such a fuss. Hurrah for Andy Updegrove; he
has a fine talent for explaining these things in
understandable terms. Whenever anyone needs hundreds and
hundreds of words to explain their position and you're
still confused, it means they're either trying to pull a
fast one, or they have no idea themselves.
This "foundation" has succeeded in sowing a lot of
confusion. But it doesn't appear to have gained them

[ Reply to This | # ]

Tax Exempt?
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 12:54 PM EST
Should the Open Document Foundation lose its tax exempt status? Seems so to me.
It appears funds were solicited under false pretenses. Perhaps they should
return the funds contributed toward the support of ODF.

[ Reply to This | # ]

    CDF is the new WAP
    Authored by: sbisson on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 01:10 PM EST
    Anyone who's involved in the mobile web has been waiting for CDF for some time
    now - it's the bringing together of XHTML, SVG-T and CSS (and JavaScript) to
    give us a standard for next generation mobile browsers.

    There's no way it could be a rich document format, well, no more than

    If you look at the list of participants in the CDF working group you'll see it's
    mainly people with an interest in improving mobile browsers - mixing web design
    tools companies , browser developers, and handset manufacturers. I'm pretty sure
    that even MS was involved a few years back, when I first looked at CDF post an
    Orange CodeCamp, when it was being pushed by Adobe's SVG folk.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    So, um, what happened to Marbux?
    Authored by: Benanov on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 01:38 PM EST
    Did I miss something? He went from valuable resource to ghost-user to attaching
    his name to a lost cause.

    Is there something I'm missing here?

    Last reply from him was September.

    That popping sound you hear is just a paradigm shifting without a clutch.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Is this Marbux the same guy who used to post on Groklaw?
    Authored by: billyskank on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 01:40 PM EST
    I always figured he was a lawyer because he seemed to know so much about the law
    and stuff.

    It's not the software that's free; it's you.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    I Don't Think That's A Pea Under That Shell....
    Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 01:47 PM EST
    Hey, everybody!

    What do you think of this possibility?

    M$ realizes that OOXML approval is shaky at best. With everyone watching ISO,
    they are now doing simple TCO studies to support their claims instead of
    continuing to stuff the ballot box. Their relative silence had me wondering if
    they figured the fix was in. Well, if so, they wouldn't still be trotting out
    figures, so something else must be in the works.

    What if this is it? Use CDF to create a "competitor" to ODF, one that
    has all the hallmarks of being "open" without actually being so? Get
    people and voting groups to regard it as an open standard, then they swoop in
    and incorporate it, EEE'ing it since it doesn't have people digging in their
    heels like ODF?

    I can't shake the feeling the game is bigger than anyone is seeing just yet....

    Dobre utka,
    The Blue Sky Ranger

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Doesn't take a rocket scientist
    Authored by: cmc on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 02:18 PM EST
    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that CDF isn't suitable for an
    office document. I would posit the statement that nothing the W3C ever comes
    out with will be suitable for office documents. Why? The answer is simple:
    because they aren't thinking about office documents, that's not their goal. The
    W3C's thoughts and goals are how to best present data on the WWW. In other
    words, how to present data in a non-rigid way, so as to be viewable by any
    browser on any device. This restricts such rigidity as absolute positioning
    which is an essential requirement in office documents. I'm not saying that CDF
    is bad, it's just that it has its place, and that place isn't in my word

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    What's marbux's view?
    Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 02:33 PM EST
    Marbux, what's your view on the topic.

    I find that a lot of article perhaps unfairly imply that marbux shared the view
    of Hiser and Edwards. The truth is marbux is mum on this topic. Any chance that
    this comment will finally get marbux's view on it?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    More details on this foundation activities/goals
    Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 03:17 PM EST
    By carefully looking at the remains of the Open Document Foundation I was able
    to find the following site:

    Which itself has links to Google Docs documents which provide quite some details
    about what this Open Document Foundation was working on:

    This document itself has links to plenty of other documents also stored on
    Google Docs.

    Enjoy, Laurent.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Waldo will have to find new work for these folks
    Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 03:26 PM EST

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Uh, Yeah
    Authored by: DarkPhoenix on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 03:57 PM EST
    That's basically what I said; that CDF was not designed to be an office format,
    or any format, really. CDF is simply a standard way of producing documents that
    use more than one XML-based language in the same page.

    As I said before, I suspect that what the Foundation is really doing here is
    proposing an XML format that "preserves the legacy formatting of Microsoft
    Office documents". Since they don't want to come off supporting a
    non-standard format, they're trying to imply that this is a format
    "standardized by W3C", even though all W3C has really standardized is
    the method used to glue the languages together.

    Please note that sections in quotes are NOT copied verbatim from articles, but
    are my interpretations of the articles.

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    W3C's Chris Lilley: CDF Not Suitable for Use as an Office Format & Can't Replace ODF
    Authored by: sbungay on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 05:47 PM EST
    The Open Document Foundation appears to be an organization that took the name
    it did because, when it came to the Open Document Format, it gave the appearance
    of officialdom or expertise; which is precisely why headlines of their
    'abandonment' of ODF looks so bad.

    ODF, the standard, was developed by the Open Office XML technical committee,
    M$ named their format Office Open XML, both break down into OOXML so that
    muddies the waters even more. If Open Office had trade-marked OOXML and the
    phrase "Open Office XML" then M$ could be in all kinds of hot water
    for blatently attempting to steal business by having a too similar name.
    Remember the fuss that was made over Mike Rowe Soft dot com?, how about Lindows?

    Perhaps I give M$ too much credit, but right now (in hindsight) it all looks
    like an orchestrated strategy of misdirection and confusion, tactically applied
    at the right place and time to cause maximum damage to the enemy. I would NOT
    want to make the mistake of underestimating what they are capable of.

    Programmer: A red eyed mumbling mamal that converses with inanimate objects.


    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Do These Guys Know What They're Doing?
    Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 05:52 PM EST
    Does anyone know if the three guys in the Open Document Foundation understand the technical bits behind how a word processing file format works, or are they just comfortable using the jargon? In other words, do these guys actually have a chance of making something that works?

    I'm also not sure what the point of their proposed CDF-based format would be, even if they could get it to work. What would they do with it? All the possible adoptees have already lined up behind Open Document Format (except of course, for Microsoft). What would they do with yet another format?

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 09 2007 @ 08:16 PM EST
    It is highly unfortunate that the founders of a tax exempt organization that solicited donations, "To support the community of volunteers in promoting, improving and providing user assistance for ODF and software designed to operate on data in this format," should publicly announce that it believes that ODF will fail.
    It's still business as usual in the USA; a "business" style that goes back 300 years. Most often it's in the same category as "Three Shell Game". You know: "listen to what I say - not what I do - and oh by the way.... give me your money." Apparently one or more suckers are born every minute. 8)

    [ Reply to This | # ]

    In defense of Marbux & Co
    Authored by: nb on Saturday, November 10 2007 @ 06:53 AM EST
    It seems to me that all the criticism of Marbux & Co that I've read so far is incredibly shallow. I have so far seen absolutely no valid counterarguments to what I would think is the reasonable "let's give him the benefit of the doubt" respectful attitude to someone who has made valuable contributions to our community.

    Let's start with a clear definition of the technical problem that needs to be solved:

    Definition: The term office document editor interoperability problem shall describe the problem that when two or people want to collaborate on editing an office document of any kind, they should be able to do so each using the software they prefer, without risk of the output of one of the document editing programs being interpreted differently by another document editing program.

    I believe that this is the problem that the "Open Document Foundation" people are trying to solve.

    This problem exists not only between Microsoft and the rest of the world. It exists also between e.g. koffice and OpenOffice, although both of these programs use ODF.

    Therefore, it is IMO justified to conclude that ODF has not solved the office document editor interoperability problem. Of course, ODF is still by far the best office document format existing today. But I think there's nothing wrong with admitting that an important problem remains unsolved.

    I think that the "Open Document Foundation" people could be on the right track in thinking that CDF might be useful as a starting point for addressing the problem that they want to tackle. At the very least, the claim that CDF has nothing to do with office documents is totally wrong, as can seen e.g. from the following quote from an introductory explanation of CDF: "So what is a Compound Document framework you may ask? Compound document is a document type typically produced using word processing software, and is a regular text document intermingled with e.g. spreadsheets, pictures, digital videos, digital audio, and other multimedia features. It can also be used to collect several documents into one."

    [ Reply to This | # ]

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