Thursday, July 13, 2006

Not to Quibble but... Oh, what the heck.

OK... So I'm out doing the Open XML research thing today when I come across the following official WikiPedia article: Comparison of OpenDocument and Microsoft XML formats - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The following point is made in the first section, "Advantages of OpenDocument over Microsoft XML Formats":

"OpenDocument hyperlinks are designed to be easy to process (they use XLink-namespace property, and do not require processing a separate file)."

Specifically, the authors take issue with the fact that Microsoft has chosen to organize their document zip packages with an XML file that has a ".rels" extension. The .rels files in a document package, are responsible for carrying the file information stating how the different parts of a Microsoft document package fit together when you open the document in the UI.

Having read the rest of the Wiki article, I decided to click on the link over to the Groklaw article from November, 2005, which also compared ODF to Open XML. I found a similar argument about how something that uses XLink is so much more superior to what Microsoft is doing because they are implementing an officially recommended W3C standard. The section you should go to to see this for yourself is titled "Separation into files".

The GrokLaw article then goes on to talk about the reuse of standards, and how the world should revolve around standards because that's what developers understand.

And now the irony: OASIS has their own standard for linking XML files together called XML Catalogs...

Why is this ironic? If you look at the concepts in the OASIS standard, you'll see that Microsoft has applied much of the same theory to their .rels package implementation - linking by abstraction through IDs and locations stored in a common file. How very object oriented of them!

Yes, it's true that Microsoft does not use the OASIS Catalog standard. I'm not saying they do. I'm saying the underlying principles are very, very similar. Microsoft did their own take on file linking, as they do with most things in this world.

The point I want to make here? I'm not convinced that it's pithy to point out that the ODF people are slamming the Open XML people for not using a file linking standard, when the ODF people aren't even using the OASIS XML Catalogs, a standard from their own parent organization, in favor of W3C XLink, a standard which never went quite where people wanted it to go beyond simple linking scenarios.

Standards come and standards go. Some standards take off like wild fire (HTML, anyone?), others die on the vine (DSSSL). At the end of the day, there's business that needs to get done, and all the standards in the world aren't going to change the need for XML implementations that get business done.

XML is a meta-language. A language for describing OTHER languages. Technically, Microsoft isn't doing anything wrong here, and the ODF argument that the use of XLink is superior is spurious. Especially in light of the existence of the XML Catalogs Standard.

At least that's how I see it.

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