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Subject: Re: [oiic-formation-discuss] Caution and Disclaimer on Interoperability

jose lorenzo <hozelda@yahoo.com> wrote on 06/11/2008 06:32:09 PM:

> I just joined today, so please excuse if I am
> repeating material or am a bit off topic.
> "Interoperability" and similar terms should be defined
> precisely and conspicuously.
> In particular, I think a note should be made that
> interoperability does NOT mean that what an office
> suite user visually sees and then saves using one
> "interoperable" or "conformant" application can be
> rendered faithfully on another such conformant
> application.

Hi Jose,

Welcome to the discussion list!

I'd say that one definition of interoperability is that a document appears the same visually on two different conformant ODF implementations.  But this is not the only definition of interoperability.  

For example if a document is created visually on one system using an ODF editor, and then is loaded on a second system which is defined for the use of the blind, and that system allows the blind user to read and navigate the document, and access all of the information of the original, then wouldn't that be considered interoperable?

And if Google is able to index ODF documents, and maybe some day they or another search engine extracts deeper semantics from documents using ODF 1.2 RDF metadata, then isn't that interoperability.

And if we write a specification that defines conventions for mixing ODF and XBRL markup, so that multiple applications can edit and process these annotations, is that not also interoperability?

You can find many different formal definitions of interoperability.  The one I like most is IDABC's from their "European Interoperability Framework":

"Interoperability means the ability of information and communication technology (ICT) systems and of the business processes they support to exchange data and
to enable the sharing of information and knowledge."

I know that many on this discussion list are interested in the visual kind of interoperability, and there is indeed progress that can be made here.  However, I think that our proposed TC charter should be broad enough to encompass the full panoply of relevant ODF interoperability initiatives.  In particular, there has been a lot of hallway talk at conferences and in casual encounters about ODF/DITA interoperability.  In other words, interoperability between two standards.

> I make this last statement because I truly doubt that
> ODF will ever be tied down enough to prevent one
> application, designated as "interoperable" according
> to the ODF standard, from arbitrarily inserting binary
> blobs (or an equivalent mapping into printable
> characters, CDATA, PCDATA, etc) into the document as a
> way to store arbitrary proprietary content, arbitrary
> proprietary application or platform state, arbitrary
> proprietary semantics, etc, bypassing the preferred
> ODF structures (if there even exist any in the
> particular case).

How long did it take HTML/CSS/DOM to become reasonably interoperable?  It doesn't happen overnight.  It will require a lot of work, of course, but this is all possible.

When you think of it, ODF itself was impossible -- When ODF started there was a single 95%+ market share dominant company who had a binary document format that is closely controlled as a strategic secret.  And now, 5 years later, that same company has announced support for ODF.

The market has moved on.  Writing word processors is not the money maker any more.  Free software does the job just fine. The profit potential is around adjacent goods, applications that do other things with documents.  For this to work, we need a high level of interoperability with ODF.

Think back to the web.  There was not a lot of money made selling HTTP servers or web browsers.  That, for the most part, migrated to free software.  But the underlying open standards like HTTP, HTML, CSS2, DOM, etc., provided the technical foundations for trillions of dollars of innovation around new products and services, e.g., Google.

So I wouldn't underestimate the interest that vendors have in seeing ODF interoperability improve.  It benefits us.



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