ISO approval: A good process gone bad
You may have read our background article about ODF and OOXML and why Red Hat believes OOXML should not be approved as an ISO standard. This time, we focus on how the standardization process has been compromised at ISO.
ISO’s JTC-1 directives were designed to provide a fair, consensus-based way to design standards that are portable, interoperable, and adaptable to all languages and cultures. The OOXML proposal has suffered from two basic problems: (1) voting irregularities, and (2) the use of a fast-track process for a complex, new, large specification that has not received adequate industry review. The resulting specification was driven almost exclusively by one vendor, has not achieved industry consensus, and has had thousands of issues logged against it, largely due to issues involving implementability, portability, and interoperability. Although resolutions have been proposed for many of the issues that have been raised, there is virtually no time to review these resolutions to determine whether they fix the problems. And the voting irregularities have raised serious issues with the fairness of the process.
Stuffing the ballot box
For a standards body to have credibility, the procedures it follows need to be credible. ISO’s JTC-1 directives say that the “objective in the development of International Standards should be the achievement of consensus between those concerned rather than a decision based on counting votes.”1 Clearly, there has been no achievement of consensus regarding the adoption of OOXML as a standard, and therefore ISO has turned to a voting process.
We believe that the flaws in the ISO voting process for OOXML are so serious that they must be addressed in order to maintain ISO’s credibility as a standards body.