The Standards Blog

What's Up With the ODF Alliance?

OpenDocument and OOXML

As you may recall, the ODF Alliance was formed on March 3, 2006. Given that they've already had, oh, two and a half weeks to change the world, I thought I'd check out the Alliance Website to see whether they had achieved their manifest destiny yet.

All too often, initiatives are launched to much fanfare, and then months go by with no evidence of real progress or expansion in membership. True, any new organization is entitled to a bit of time to find its legs, but quick action is a good sign that the members mean business, and that the structure that they have put together is effective. So let's see how the Alliance measures up.

Let's check out the membership list first, to the extent that it's up to date (I don't see an edit date at the bottom of the page), since that's the best measure of whether a new organization is likely to succeed or fail (what if you gave a consortium and nobody came?)

At launch, the Alliance had 36 members. Today I count 113 — more than triple the original number, and quite a respectable ratification of the concept. Let's ask the Butch Cassidy question next ("Who are these guys?")and take a look at the composition of the new additions.

Some of the more interesting additions and categories that I see include the following:

Organizations: The most intriguing addition is ANSI — the American National Standards Institute, which normally focuses exclusively on the world of accredited organizations and not consortia (OASIS, the developer of ODF, is a consortium). There are many other new association members, most of which, but not all, support open source.

Other non-profits: I see at least one new member in each of the following categories: schools, universities, libraries and NGOs.

Countries: The appeal of the Alliance in Europe continues to be strong, with a smattering of new members from other continents. I note new members from at least the following countries: Britain, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, South Africa and Spain (with perhaps the most new members).

Government: Membership continues to lag in this sector. The only new governmental members that I note are the City of Bloomington, Indiana and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich. The only founding member in this category was the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for the City of Vienna. Still, government is customer here, so as-yet, the organization is not tailored to this group as a member, as compared to the target of Alliance output.

Companies: There are no new Fortune 500 members, but there are scores of new companies from many sectors. The largest number of new corporate members focus on open source, but I also see companies from at least the following disciplines: integrators, public relations, consulting, services, security, various types of proprietary software, and hardware. Were I multilingual I expect that I would find that the list of sectors would be larger.

As you may recall, the Alliance was formed with the mission of globally educating:

[P]olicymakers, IT administrators and the public on the benefits and opportunities of the OpenDocument Format, to help ensure that government information, records and documents are accessible across platforms and applications, even as technologies change today and in the future.

So the next appropriate question would be to see whether they have produced anything useful yet that might help it achieve that goal. So far, you can find two original pieces, and two white papers of third party authorship at the ODF Resources Webpage:

ODF for Governments: An Overview of Why ODF is Critical for the Public Sector

Refuting the Myths About ODF

Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems — Created by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School

Emerging Business Value of OpenDocument format v1.0 — From IBM

The site also has a detailed FAQ.

All in all, not bad for only a few weeks' time. I'll check in from time to time and provide further updates.

[To browse all prior blog entries on this story, click here]

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