NLnet, a Dutch foundation for an open information society, has publicly called for Microsoft to release its deprecated formats (DOC/XLS/PPT) into the public domain. At least that would be useful to have in order to certify the backward compatibility, which participating people in the ISO process are unable to certify up to now.
Microsoft should release deprecated file formats into public domain
- Office market leader on crash course with history ---
14 January 2008, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Dutch charitative venture capitalist NLnet  has requested IT company Microsoft to release its previous file formats into the public domain. According to the not-for-profit investor this will allow businesses, open source-developers and the standards community to better access their own documents in the future, and will help getting Microsoft's products to work with the new open standard ODF.
Especially releasing the full blueprints of the many different versions of Microsoft's old Office formats (better known as doc,. xls and .ppt) into the public domain is urgently required for work on future versions of ODF. ODF (ISO 26300) is the new and broadly supported ISO-standard for Office formats that fast becoming the default file format of choice for text editors, spreadsheets and other office applications with governments, businesses, NGO's and individuals. "There is no reason for deprecated file formats not to be in the public domain," states Michiel Leenaars, strategy manager at the not-for-profit NLnet foundation.
Also, over the next weeks national standards bodies worldwide are due to make up their minds about the controversial re-archiving format OOXML currently under heavy fire within the International Standards Organisation ISO . NLnet recently joined ECMA as a member to improve interoperability of future OOXML versions with the ODF standard. The foundation was alarmed by the fact that even the committee members do not get the real specifications of the file formats they are supposed to be re-encoding.
"Surely no-one can make - or judge - a decent re-archiving standard if the original file formats are unknown to them", says Leenaars, the longest sitting member of the Netherlands national standards body committee responsible for both ODF and OOXML. Currently Microsoft provides part of the specifications under a non-disclosure agreement  but these are vastly incomplete, illegible, and available only under very restrictive conditions - and therefore of little use to neither standards bodies nor to the software community.
There has been quite some controversy over OOXML in the so far unsuccessful standardization process. Many of the technical issues still have to be resolved in line with compatibility requirements from a largely unknown format. The foundation fears that the continuation of the OOXML standardisation process without the actual specifications will result in serious misalignments and vast information loss for potentially tens of millions of customers (and former customers) from Microsoft.
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*** About NLnet Foundation
NLnet Foundation is a widely respected private charity fund supporting open standards and open source worldwide, and has over the years actively contributed to (internet) standards, open source projects and subsidiary or enabling activities such as the development of GPLv3.
NLnet foundation is an independent organisation whose means came initially from interest on a very substantial own capital formed in 1997 by the sale of the first Dutch Internet Service Provider. Its private capital ensures an absolute independent position. The articles of association for the NLnet foundation state: "to promote the exchange of electronic information and all that is related or beneficial to that purpose". NLnet believes in open standards and open source. At the moment, dozens of projects and organizations are supported financially. Amongst them: research laboratory NLnet Labs, the Free Software Foundation, ThinkQuest, Intelligent Interactive Distributed Systems, and the Internet Society.