Microsoft becoming more open?

Microsoft made two major announcements overnight – the first is an announcement by Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie that Microsoft are extending RSS under a Creative Commons licence, and calling the extended RSS, Simple Sharing Extensions or SSE.

Russell Beattie likes it:

Adding in SSE namespace could then in theory allow *any* data contained in an item can be kept in sync. Pretty cool, hey? Sort of a universal data communication spec: Anything that any database can spit out, you can keep track of it, synchronize, and manage changes. Very, very cool.

As does Dave Winer (the inventer of (the current flavour of) RSS):

Microsoft’s new approach to synchronizing RSS and OPML, using methods pioneered in Ozzie’s earlier work, and keeping the “really simple” approach that’s worked so well with networked syndication and outlining, combines the best of our two schools of thought, and this creativity is available for everyone to use. It’s a proud moment for me, I hope for Ray and Jack and the rest of the people at Microsoft, and perhaps for the open development community on the Internet.

There’s a draft spec for SSE and a FAQ, if you’d like to know more.

Then Brian Jones, of the Microsoft Office team, made an announcement about the Office XML formats. Brian said:

We are going to bring the Microsoft Office Open XML formats to a standards body with the intention of eventually making the formats an ISO standard. This should really help everyone feel certain that these formats will always be available and fully accessible. We are going to work with Apple, Barclays Capital, BP, the British Library, Essilor, Intel Corporation, NextPage Inc., Statoil ASA and Toshiba to form a technical committee at ECMA International that will fully document all of our schemas so that anyone can understand how to develop on top of them

This is a huge step forward for Office formats – this will clear the way for the simple creation and sharing (mashing) of Office documents server side.

Even more significantly, Brian went on to say:

we are moving away from our royalty free license, and instead we are going to provide a very simple and general statement that we make an irrevocable commitment not to sue. I’m not a lawyer, but from what I can see, this “covenant not to sue” looks like it should clear the way for GPL development which was a concern for some folks.

This is tremendous news – I was moderating a talk recently at Tech Camp Ireland and I remember making a comment on the fact that Microsoft was opening up their Office format and making it XML by default. I was quickly slapped down from the audience (by Colm MacCarthaigh, if memory serves – apologies Colm if it wasn’t you) because I was told it was going to be proprietory and in any case it would all be tied up in licencing. I didn’t have any ammo with which to defend Microsoft at the time (and frankly, not generally being their greatest fan, I wasn’t too upset by the comment!) however, this announcement changes that.

Make it so Brian!

4 thoughts on “Microsoft becoming more open?”

  1. The licensing is still not compatible with the GPL, so don’t expect SSE to be incorporated in any of the major OSS blogging / RSS tools.

    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/license-list.html#OtherLicenses

    “Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license

    This is a copyleft free license meant for artistic works and entertainment works. Please don’t use it for software or documentation, since it is incompatible with the GNU GPL and with the GNU FDL.”

  2. I think opening the Office format will be great – aside from providing us with greater choice (Pages / Keynote / Open Office), think of the benefits to 3rd world countries that can’t afford Office but need to use the documents.

    I posted on it

  3. Pingback: Russell Page
  4. Tom, I fully expect there to be a significant sting in the tail on both these for competitors. Just how many times have we seen Microsoft pull this exact same trick over the years? When do they start losing the benefit of the doubt?

Comments are closed.