back to article BSI faces High Court challenge over OOXML U-turn

The UK's Unix User Group (UKUUG) has convinced the High Court to carry out a judicial review of the British Standard Institute's decision to vote in favour of Microsoft's controversial Office Open XML (OOXML) specification. The UKUUG is calling for the BSI to reverse its vote at the International Standards Organisation (ISO), …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Hardly surprising there is no comment

    "We requested comment from the BSI on the High Court judicial review, but it was not immediately available at time of writing"

    They can't comment from the Bahamas, where they are enjoying spending the wedge provided by the monopoly in exchange for a yes vote.

  2. Chris Miller


    So, instead of being decided by an undemocratic, but (somewhat) technically-literate body; it will be decided by an undemocratic technically-illiterate body. I look forward to reading the court reports:

    Mr Justice Cocklecarrot; What exactly is an interweb, Mr Partington-Smythe?

    Partington-Smythe QC (for the defence): It is a new device allowing 14-year old boys to view images of naked ladies, without having to buy a copy of Loaded, your honour. It can also be used to receive large numbers of messages offering to improve the size of one's genital organ.

    Mr Justice Cocklecarrot; Most interesting, I must investigate further.

    Partington-Smythe QC: Your clerk may be able to assist you, your honour.

  3. Duncan Hothersall

    This is good news

    A judicial review is precisely what's needed here, since the BSI has been able to come up with no rational reason for its illogical decision, and many people involved in reaching the decision do not recognise the announced one as being the one they took.

    The only problem is that the BSI has the capacity to delay, procrastinate and obstruct until any result becomes just a meaningless footnote in an already written history.

  4. /\/\j17

    Try Again...

    "We requested comment from the BSI on the High Court judicial review, but it was not immediately available at time of writing."

    Give them a call back - they will probably have changed their minds about giving you a comment by now. I mean, it's been more than 10 minutes and nothing has changed in your their answer will probably change.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Changing vote after election has closed

    Surely you can't change your vote in an election after the voting has completed - that implies that voting is still open.

  6. John Miles

    @Chris Miller - read the article

    Whether or not lawyers understand the internet is neither here nor there (and some do very well indeed, see Pinsent Masons 'Outlaw' newsletter).

    The point of the legal challenge appears to be to examine whether BSI followed procedures - something lawyers are very adept at assessing. (they are also quite good at reading what an article actually says).

  7. Dunstan Vavasour
    Thumb Up

    Kudos to UKUUG

    for actually doing something while the rest of us are just tut-tutting.

    @Chris Miller, with the greatest respect you are completely wrong. This is not about asking for a judicial review of the technological substance, it's about asking for a judicial review of BSI's decision making process which seems to have changed from "We do not agree because of the following reasons" to "we'll ignore our previous reasons and just vote yes".

    I don't know what the requirements are for BSI to be open about its decision making process, or the what the legal instruments are under which it operates, but common sense dictates that it is not acceptable for a publicly accountable body to reverse its previous decision but say "we're not telling you why".

    Despite their crusty image, judges aren't stupid. I would think that investigating the reversal of a supposedly objective decision in favour of a very, very wealthy organisation might pique his interest. While this will not per se result in the de-approval of ISO whatever-it-is (29500?), and adverse finding might have a significant effect in undermining the *perceived* validity of the standard.

  8. Alan Potter
    Thumb Down


    Wouldn't it be nice if these Unix fanbois actually worked to give us something better, rather than their eternal anti-Microsoft jiohad?


  9. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    ballot != election

    Standardisation bodies do not use "election" process to ratify standards.

  10. Tom Silver badge

    Re: Changing vote after election has closed

    There's already an international standard for this:

    MXml. Thats M for Mugabe not Microsoft - though they may patent it and promote it as original.

  11. Stuart
    Dead Vulture

    OOXML or OXML somebody please decide.

    Am I the only uptight *n*l person around here. Would somebody at the Reg please exhibit some standards when bitching about a standards body. I mean Microhoo(?) went to great effort to please everyone by dropping Office from the name thus excusing their inability to make the standards setting Office07 comply with their standards proposal greased by the argument that they set the standards. This is a bit of an oxymoronic circular argument and would be my 1st argument against O(O)XML. There is a Register story for 07's lack of compliance but I'm too lazy to refer to it. Anyway that's enough whining on Register standards.

    Cheerio Stuart

  12. Graham Wood

    @Alan Potter

    You mean like the existing standard that is already out there and supported by multiple applications, having gone through the ISO process????

    The BSI stated that it was voting no (the first time) because of concerns about flaws in the standard... Their wiki about it is on the net, and when I looked a week or two ago there were no comments about the flaws being resolved.

    I Emailed the BSI asking their communications secretary why the vote had been changed, since the concerns were still there. I got pointed to their statement that contains no information. I replied that this didn't answer the question, and would they please tell me where to see an updated statement as to the issues that they raised - and I am yet to hear anything.

    Even if what they've done is valid/fair - it really doesn't seem to be. Also, the addition of a new standard has yet to be shown to actually benefit anyone - Microsoft should implement the same "open standard" as everyone else, not one that includes comments like 'implement the same as office 97' without detailing what that means!

  13. neil

    @ Alan

    There is an existing standard that works, is actually implemented in many different applications and platforms, patent free, unfudged etc.

    ODF, look it up.

  14. Dunstan Vavasour

    @Alan Parker

    I assume the comment was ironic flamebait, but just in case ...

    ODF went through the non fast-track ISO process, taking about two years to complete its passage. Amendments were made and considered, and the implementations have been changed to reflect this standard file format. This is how standards are supposed to work.

    We *nix fanbois don't mind what Microsoft does with its software, and would very much like it if they would include ODF support, as scrutinised and amended over a couple of years and ratified by ISO. However, although invited, Microsoft declined to participate in this rigorous standardisation process, instead declaring ODF to be unfit for purpose and choosing to put forward their own competing standard, O(O)XML.

    We *nix fanbois have no problem with Microsoft putting forward another standard (though it seems a bit unnecessary). At 6,000 pages it is quite a lengthy standard, but the ISO process is designed to give rigorous scrutiny to lengthy and complex technical subject matter.

    Now comes the bit where we have a problem. The standard was submitted to the ISO fast track process, a process put in place for giving rapid approval to de facto standards which are in widespread use with multiple implementations. The standards which have passed through this process have an average length of about 100 pages, and O(O)XML exceeds the mean length by about 60 standard deviations. There is no reference implementation. But instead of allowing the proposed standard to enjoy the rigorous examination which ISO allows, Microsoft were determined that this outsize unimplemented standard should complete the fast track process for which it was so clearly unsuited. While not wishing to make a judgement of motives, the objective facts are that a number of countries became full members of the relevant fast track committee shortly before this standard came for voting, and have only ever voted once: in favour of O(O)XML being ratified without full scrutiny.

    As for BSI, they were one of the national standards bodies which did a pretty good job of analysing these 6,000 pages in the 30 days allowed by the fast track process, and submitted many observations. The ISO committee collated the observations from all the national bodies and, after de-duplication, there were just over 1,000. These were to be addressed and resolved in a week's worth of meetings, and at the end of this week the vast majority had not been addressed.

    The point which UKUUG want to have judicially reviewed is this: when the standard was first examined by BSI it was rejected for a large number of reasons. When it was voted on the second time, BSI voted for approval despite most of these reasons not having been addressed. Why did BSI change this position, which was based on objective technical judgement, when the reasons for its original rejection had not been addressed?

  15. Anonymous Coward

    @Alan Potter

    "Unix fanbois actually worked to give us something better" ... you mean like Unix? These fanbois as you put it are more like true engineers, computer scientists and serious mathematicians.

    If it was not for the likes of these people none of our modern OS would exist, even windows.

    Also this is not anti-MS, this is simply about democratic process. The BSI represent British standards, if you are resident here isn't in your interest that the BSI are impartial, irrelevant of your choice of computer software. This makes it as fair for MS as anyone else. Why wouldn't you be all for that?

  16. Anonymous Coward

    lots of confusion...

    @neil - at this point IS26300 (ISO ODF) is probably not implemented by any known application.

    @dunstain - IS26300 went through the PAS process, ODF/IS26300 was not designed nor is it maintained within the ISO framework in the way that you claim. In fact SC34 is concerned that there is a growing backlog of issues with the ODF spec that are not being addressed by the OASIS commitee.

    I'm not sure where you get your "30 day" claim from, fasttrack like PAS is a 15 month process, the technical review period is eight or nine months of that.

    Some phrase about glass houses springs to mind. :)

  17. Mark
    IT Angle

    re: lots of confusion...

    CSS2 is probably not implemented by any known application. That there are issues is why there's CSS3. However, everyone CAN implement CSS2 and there is no impediment to Microsoft, Red Hat, IBM or Fred Bloggs implementing the standard.

    With MSOXML it cannot be implemented by any known application, it uses "like this program does it" when the program being referred to is only visible to one company (Microsoft, who own the OS and the Office application source code and can tell what is supposed to happen).

    ISO ODF is under the control of a consortium (which MS had been invited to participate as a member with full rights) so changes are possible through consensus, not the requirements of a single application vendor.

    ISO ODF is complied to within limits of coding accuracy with several applications.

    MSOOXML is complied by nothing.

    ISO specifies with ODF what it should do.

    MSOOXML is specified by "Whatever Microsoft's implementation does".

    Fast Track is meant for specifications already in wide use. MS Office formats (binary) were in wide use, though if you have to specify one format, that would probably be Office97. However, MSOOXML was not in wide use, since when it was put to Fast Track, NOTHING was available that produced it. Beta products, yes, but no released product. Therefore it was not applicable for Fast Track status.

    The problem with Fast Track is that all the rules are based on the predication that there is already consensus about the general position and real life use has already shown any problems in the proposed format. Hence the rules saying that it doesn't have to solve any problems brought up in meetings: there weren't supposed to be any because everyone already used it, so why mention it?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If an 'O' is to be removed from OOXML that should be the one representing "open".

    "Office XML" is a descriptive term for what the format is supposed to cover, a storage format for an office-suite. "Open XML" otoh is a generic term that cover anything described in XML that isn't kept secret.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Control and implementations...


    Don't believe the spin, OASIS ODF is under the control of IBM and Sun, go over to the consortium site and count the number of members of the commitee then calculate it out by percentage. Last time I looked those two corporations made up 38% of the active members of the commitee.

    Any app that did once implement the ISO ODF standard has probably moved on to support later versions of the Sun/IBM/OASIS standard at this point - hense there being few no supporting apps. If only OASIS had agreed to a maint agreement within the framework of SC34 then things might be better, but they have chosen to pretty much ignore ISO comments or process, so it isn't pretty at all right now.

    As for your comments about the OOXML spec - you must have missed the period of time between the comments being submitted on Sep '07, and substantial changes being made to the spec in Feb '08 - everything you quote is a pre-revision issue and is resvolved in the final version of the specification.

  20. Stephen

    @Anonymous Shill

    You must be using some quite special maths, 38% does not make a controlling interest in a committee.

    And to suggest that MS resolved the questions rather than simply strong armed the process, which should never have been applied, is patently laughable.

  21. Anonymous Coward



    you're happy to claim that Microsoft controlled the ISO process when they represent less than 7% of the submitting Ecma technical committee, and a much smaller percentage of the make up of the international technical committees in the national standards bodies.

    Again, you're slurping the koolaid. As you say, patently laughable.

  22. Mark

    re: yet...

    What does being 7% of the ECMA comittee have to do with it? They are only 0.003% of the US population.

    ECMA ignored IBM but they can: they only have to do what one member wants. That's the way they work.

    ISO shouldn't work that way, but ballot stuffing and holding the chair enabled themto take over. Hell, you can find MS employees explaining that they need to do this and detail the reasons and actions to take!

  23. Mark
    IT Angle

    re: Control and implementations...

    So IBM and Sun constitute a minority of the voting members for the ODF standard comittee? Well MS constituted 100% of the comittee defining the MSOOXML standard.

    And can you please let us know your affilliation. It must be an insider from either ECMA or MS because the changes (which were a minor fraction of the number of issues raised at the very hurried Fat Track process: read up about Norway for example) have not been produced for public consumption. Heck, not even the bodies that were supposed to OK the "standard" have seen it!

  24. alistair millington
    Thumb Up

    at the end of the day

    M$ bully boy tactics have occured, whether backhanders or just shock and awe with the amount of paperwork put forward.

    Either way the standard will always be marred and won't be very much liked by the IT world should it get off the ground. Just like a lot of things that M$ do.

    "Yeah the OOXML standard, wasn't that the one M$ bought..."

    "... two standards? Why, that just seems stupid... didn't M$ bribe theirs through? Wasn't there some vote rigging in Norway and the UK?"

    I just wish instead of 6000 pages and the time taken for it, they fixed their bug fixers and testing departments to give us a decent OS service pack. Or cheaper more realistic prices for their windows 7 beta. Sorry Vista.

    Heres to a judge reading on this....

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft has destroyed ISO and now it's going to destroy the BSI too

    By stuffing ISO with new voting members who were only interested in one thing, ISO can no longer operate because it will never be able to get a majority to vote on anything again.

    And now that the BSI is (rightly) being dragged through the High Court because of an about-turn which can have no logical explanation apart from corruption by Microsoft, its reputation will end up in tatters.

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