OpenDocument – why do we need this again?

Look – I’m as big a standards geek as you’re likely to meet, and I have a world of respect for Tim Bray, but I simply do not understand why I should care very much about ODF, let alone why it should “turn the world inside out“. As far as I can see, this is simply encoding as XML the same broken model we’ve had in MS Office for many years now. Content and presentation mashed together in a jumble, and ten years from now, if I want to get my content out, I’ll need to know quite a bit about how openoffice works (encodes fields, handles page breaks, styles text runs).

Contrary to Tim’s comments to News.com, the web was a tremendous explosion, not because HTML was an open standard (it really wasn’t at the time). Leaving aside the fact that we had access to a world wide network for the first time, a) there were browsers on nearly every computer, b) HTML was simple enough that it could be coded by hand in notepad, and c) because you could teach yourself how to write it by using “view source” on any page you thought was cool. ODF: strike one, two and three by my count. Decouple the content from the presentation entirely, and then I’ll be impressed.

To me, DITA is the more singificant development. Now we can take a sophisticated XML content framework, and specialize it with company/industry/domain semantics without needing to futz around with DTDs or Schema. True single source, multi-channel publishing. Now that could turn everything inside out, not refighting the office suite wars of the 80’s.

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