Big victory for Open Source and Open Standards

I think the Massachusetts decision to require state documents to be saved in open standard, non-proprietary formats is a huge victory in terms of Open Source and open standards adoption. I really hope that other states will follow suit.

Actually I think all governmental documents should be saved and stored in open formats. It is absolutely ridiculous to require citizens to purchase a $300 office suite to make sure that they can read electronic documents issued by the government. But that’s how things seem to work in software world these days.

Good think about this decision is that now everyone who deals with Massachusetts will have to convert their files into oo.org format or into PDF. Which means major businesses, contractors and other state agencies may need to start installing copies of Open Office on their machines, or use some PDF converters. It also makes people aware of the fact that, despite popular belief MS Office Files are non-standard, and not everyone can, or wants to read them.

The greatest victory is probably the publicity. Most people who will hear that you cannot use Office in Massachusetts state agencies will want to know why. And thus they will be exposed to the concept of an open standard, and will learn why proprietary document formats are bad. They might agree with the decision, or they might be outraged (or simply don’t care) but they will hear about open standards.

Despite aggressive marketing and PR effort people will realize that there has to be something wrong with Office if some states are dropping it.

It’s great that people are finally realizing that they do not have to bend over for Microsoft. We are the consumers – we buy their shit. If we don’t like it we can stop buying! Massachusetts is a living example that even the monopolistic vendor lock in does not guarantee that the consumer won’t wise up to your tricks in the long run.

And since Massachusetts explicitly specifies that the need for an open standard, MS cannot simply embrace and extend the Open Office format or the PDF format. Once they include proprietary extensions in those formats, they cannot be used. This might be the end of this nasty business practice – at least in Massachusetts.

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