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Standard Norge responds to allegations (Updated)

Standards Norway have posted a press release "Standard Norges behandling av OOXML for avstemming i ISO". Here's a quick translation, which I will replace with an official text if Standards Norway release an English version.

Standard_Norge-OrientationDoc I have moved the translation I originally posted here as Stanard Norge has now posted a PDF with an English version here. The text reads:-

Standards Norway’s handling of the vote on OOXML in ISO

The criticism we received after announcing that we changed our vote on the proposal of OOXML (Office Open XML) from “No with comments” to “yes” after our meeting with the national special committee on IT, SN/K 185, on Friday, 28 March, was not unexpected. We had also expected criticism if we had chosen to maintain our “no” statement.

Important factors for us in this matter were:

1. The proposal to send the ECMA standard Office Open XML to ISO/IEC in order to designate it as an ISO/IEC standard was considered through the use of a so-called “fast-track”- procedure. This kind of expedited consideration is used by ISO to designate standards developed by standardization organizations with cooperation agreements with ISO as ISO standards. These are often industry standards that already enjoy a certain degree of acceptance in the market. Turning them into ISO standards makes them open standards that can be maintained and refined in the ISO system.
OOXML is an extensive standard (with more than 6,000 pages), and using a “fast-track” procedure on this document was a very great effort. There was considerable discussion in many countries as to whether this procedure was appropriate for matters of this kind. Nevertheless, this procedure was accepted centrally by ISO and IEC in January 2007 as the appropriate method for considering the OOXML standard.

2. Prior to the OOXML being distributed for a vote, after being proposed by the standardization organization OASIS, the document standard ODF had been through an equivalent procedure without any comments on this being problematic. Many consider ODF and OOXML to be equivalent document standards, and as ODF had already become an ISO standard, the question was raised as to whether ISO/IEC can have two competing standards. This question was settled early in 2007 by ISO and IEC centrally, who stated that there was no clash of interest between the two standards.

3. During 2007 there was a lot of attention in the Norwegian IT sector regarding the process surrounding OOXML. The discussion rapidly turned into a partisan debate between proponents and opponents of OOXML. The two issues, i.e. the use of “fast-track” and the existence of parallel standards, were consequently discussed by Standards Norway’s committee SN/K 185 (even though the issues had been settled by ISO earlier that same year). The great public interest in the matter led to an enlargement of the committee from 6-7 members to 30 members.

4. The public enquiry on the consideration of a proposed ISO standard is of great importance. This is an opportunity for all stakeholders to state their opinions and to make recommendations for improvements. After Standards Norway circulated the proposal for comment, we received 47 responses, 38 said “yes” to the proposal and 9 said “no”. As is already known, many of the “yes” responses were identical and phrased in a way that left no doubt that they were the result of a campaign orchestrated by Microsoft Norway. All the responses were signed and came from known senders. Standards Norway cannot take opinions into consideration other than those that have been expressed in writing. We would like to add that there is nothing unusual about receiving identical responses in controversial matters where stakeholders discuss the matter among themselves and lend support to one another’s statements.
Norway’s statement in this matter was scheduled to be ready for a vote in ISO in August 2007. At this point, however, there was disagreement on the committee regarding Norway’s position, though with a clear majority wanting Norway to vote “no”. The ISO regulations state that in order for a member to get its “no” vote approved, the “no” has to be supplemented by comments that explain the reason for voting “no”.
At the meeting of 28 March the committee thus focused on dealing with the comments submitted. According to ISO regulations all comments that lead to a proposal being rejected must be dealt with in a way that will incorporate them into the proposed standard. As a consequence the members can then choose to change their “no” to a “yes”, which was what happened during the OOXML process.

5. Approving a standard requires a qualified majority among the ISO members. A minimum of 2/3 of the members of the committee that has developed the standard need to vote “yes”, while no more than ¼ are to vote against the proposal.
Standards Norway had earlier decided to vote “no with comments” even though the national enquiry resulted in a clear “yes”. The conclusion was thus considered to be a conditional yes, which we also stated in a press release on 31 August 2007. Standards Norway emphasized the need for an improvement of the proposed standard, in keeping with the comments from the mirror committee and the mechanism for voting “no with comments”.

6. According to ISO’s and IEC’s own rules and regulations the national comments are to be dealt with at a meeting referred to as the “Ballot resolution meeting” (BRM). The number of comments (close to 3,500) that were supposed to be dealt with during a short period of time was substantial, though many countries had similar comments. According to the Norwegian delegation, the BRM meeting took place in an efficient and proper manner, in accordance with the rules pertaining to ISO/IEC BRM meetings.
Prior to the BRM meeting the comments from Norway were dealt with in the same way as the rest of the comments. The editor of the document presented the proposals that became the basis of the BRM meeting. Two of the Norwegian comments where rejected, the rest were accepted or accepted with modifications. Naturally, the individual country’s comments must be seen in context. Discussions at the BRM meeting also led to our comments having to include decisions that had been taken there.

7. In all standardization work in which Standards Norway participates it is Standards Norway that formally votes. The usual rule for international work is that when there is general agreement in the committee we follow the advice that our mirror committees provide. We have on occasion gone against the majority, and there have been instances when the committee’s feedback did not permit a simple “yes” or “no” response. In such cases, when following the usual standardization procedure we can choose to abstain. When following the “fast-track” procedure we need give notice of our wanting to change our original vote or not once the result from the BRM meeting becomes available.

8. The main issue at the Norwegian committee meeting on 28 March was to clarify whether if comments had been given sufficient consideration to allow us to change Norway’s vote from “no” to “yes”. Prior to the meeting, 21 committee members had signed an open letter to Standards Norway arguing why Standards Norway should vote “no” to OOXML. Thus they had taken a position before the committee had discussed how our comments had been dealt with. In addition the letter also contained other and previously known arguments against the proposed standard.
During the meeting it became clear that it was not possible to reach an agreement on the committee about how well or poorly our comments had been dealt with in ISO.
Following consideration by the committee, at a meeting between delegates from the BRM meeting, the chairman of SN/K 185 and representatives from Standards Norway, there was a further effort to create a degree of agreement which did not succeed.
The chair of the committee has a vital role in creating the greatest possible agreement, but already in 2007 the chair of the committee had flagged his position, which meant that he could no longer meet the criteria for neutrality. He had therefore relinquished his duty of chairing the committee’s consideration of OOXML, and for that reason Standards Norway’s deputy managing director chaired the meetings for consideration of this matter on the committee.

9. It is correct that a majority of members on the committee believed that comments had not been given sufficient consideration. However, and in line with what the meeting chair stressed, Standards Norway’s comments had not been formulated as absolutes. In Standards Norway’s view, the phrasing allowed some leeway, which was important for finding acceptable solutions through consideration at an international level. At the committee meeting during the commentary rounds there were many that made absolute demands have their comments heeded, confirming that the rigid positions were well established. Standards Norway thus considered any further discussion as futile with regards to achieving agreement on the committee.

10. In Standards Norway’s summary of the status of the case following the committee meeting we emphasized the following;

  • On the committee there is a clear majority that is opposed to making OOXML into an ISO/IEC standard. However, in its overall assessment, Standards Norway must also consider the result of the formal enquiry, where there is a majority of “yes” votes. There was greater number of end-users of document standard formats among those in favor, than those who were opposed to the standard.
  • There is agreement on the need for improving the proposed standard, and Standards Norway believes this can best take place if OOXML becomes an ISO standard now. Work on revising can start immediately on the ISO committee which is responsible for this standard, and Norway ought to be in the best possible position to initiate and participate in this effort. (The ODF standard has undergone several changes since it became an ISO standard)
  • Standards Norway believes that ISO should critically evaluate the “fast-track” procedure. We believe that work on OOXML would have been better served if it had been initiated as a new ISO project. The problem, however, was that the proposer, ECMA, had good reason to launch the project as “fast-track”. In 2008 Standards Norway is also one of the 12 members that comprise the ISO “Technical Management Board” (TMB), which is responsible for standardization work and the rules and procedures it should follow. TMB has already decided to discuss experience with the use of the “fast-track” procedure with the ISO/IEC 29500 process as a point of departure. The issue will likely be raised at TMB’s meeting on 3-4 June this year.
  • ISO is the International Organization for Standardization. As a member of ISO we are, like members of our sister organization IEC, required to do our best to ensure that the proposed standards we are working on can be approved as ISO and IEC standards.

On this basis, Standards Norway believes the proposed standard ISO/IEC DIS 29500 Office Open XML with the comments which have now been incorporated into the document can be approved.

This process has been very difficult, and the decision that Standards Norway had to make was not an easy one. We have provided our account of the matter above, and the issues behind Standards Norway’s vote.


[Update: 03/04/08 - The Norwegian Ministry of Trade and Industry commented today in Norway’s largest business daily, Dagens Næringsliv. Here's a rough translation:-

“The Ministry has nothing to criticize Standard Norway’s handling of the Norwegian voting procedure regarding the Microsoft-standard Open XML and the ISO-approval. – The Ministry does not engage in standards processes. It is the responsibility of Standard Norway to execute standard processes in a proper manner. We have now received a brief from Standard Norway on how they handled the process, says State Secretary Anne-Lene Svingen (labor party).”]


hAl said:

An  unofficial (though looking like the real thing) result sheet has emerged:

It states:

75% P-member approval

86% overall approval of P+O members combined

# April 1, 2008 12:59 PM

Ruud said:

hAl the sauce of the leak seems to be the opendocsociety. See here

Anyway it looks like it is real and OOXML is now going to be IS29500.

I think this was always the best result.

# April 1, 2008 1:15 PM

Eric White's Blog said:

Steven McGibbon notes that Standards Norway have posted a press release "Standard Norges behandling av

# April 1, 2008 1:19 PM

Brian Jones: Open XML Formats said:

Norway has also decided to change their vote to "yes" for DIS 29500 (Open XML).

# April 1, 2008 3:02 PM

TrackBack said:

# April 1, 2008 3:35 PM

TrackBack said:

# April 1, 2008 3:35 PM

Vladimir Gabriel said:

OpenXML = ISO 29500!

# April 1, 2008 5:06 PM

Jomar said:

I'm very impressed.

Norway thinks that the "revising work needs to start immediately " and also that "JTC1 needs to revise the Fast-Track process" and vote YES ???

They also believe that the 18% discussions BRM was a successful one ?

Too much Aquavit...

# April 1, 2008 6:22 PM

Jomar said:

to Vladimir Gabriel:


Now it is:

ISO 29500-1

ISO 29500-2

ISO 29500-3

ISO 29500-4

ISO 29500-5

Discuss and vote 1 and takes 5 International Standards !!!

# April 1, 2008 6:23 PM

Brent said:


I fail to see why approval of this "standard" was/is the best result.  Standards, when they become standards, must be implementable - OOXML in it's "approved" form is simply not.

Best example I can give is the following scenario:

ISO gets a proposal from Automaker XYZ to have their Tire Spec's approved as a standard for making tires.

The spec itself defines pieces as(examples):

TireWidth1 = TireWidthUsedOnXYZModelABCCar

TireWidth2 = TireWidthUsedOnXYZModelDEFCar

However, a complete search of the spec reveals *no* definitions for either TireWidthUsedOnXYZModelABCCar or TireWidthUsedOnXYZModelDEFCar - So is the latter 14" or 12"?  The former 10" or 18"?

Only "XYZ" Company actually knows for sure since their the ones that made the "ABC" and "DEF" model cars.

So in order to implement the spec, a tire maker cannot use the ISO standard as proposed.  They would *have* to go to automaker XYZ.

The MS-OOXML spec is absolutely *riddled* with those type of items.  (like "autoSpaceLikeWord95" - Can you point out to me where that is actually defined?).  If they can't/won't define the spec's - why are those items even in there?

Some say "well - for backward compatibility".  Ok - great.  Legacy support - I'm all for it.  However, if I'm implementing the spec and choose to support legacy documents, where do I go for the definitions?  Certainly not to the spec where they should be.  Oh, I'm sorry, that's right...I have to go pay MS to get that info.

*ANY* ISO standard must be fully implementable from the ISO spec *WITHOUT* having to request help from the original creators.

OOXML should not have been approved.  ISO has lost a ton of credibility from this.

# April 1, 2008 6:30 PM

Avi Alkalay said:

Jomar, no kidding! Five standards now !!!

Fast question: does the competence to approve ISO 29500-1 is the same as to approve ISO 29500-4 ?

# April 1, 2008 6:38 PM

TrackBack said:

# April 1, 2008 6:39 PM

Alan Bell said:

What a great translation, and done so fast too. One could almost believe it was written in English first then translated to Norwegian.

# April 1, 2008 8:08 PM

stoobie said:

Not to be a nit-picker, but...

"The criticism received after announcing that we changed our vote from “ No with comments” on the proposal of OOXML ( Office Open XML) to “yes” after our meeting with...."

and then,

"The proposal of sending the ECMA standard Open Office XML to ISO/IEC in order to appoint this as the ISO/IEC standard has been handled through the use of a so called..."

Didn't Microsoft already receive some criticism for choosing the OOXML moniker because it created confusion between the two standards? Is it "Open Office" or "Office Open", or is this simply just another misunderstanding between terms as happened with "Capable" and "Ready"?

One barely gets past the first two paragraphs before confusion about the passing of this standard begins...

# April 1, 2008 8:55 PM

Stephen McGibbon said:

It's "Office Open XML file formats" or OpenXML.

# April 1, 2008 9:07 PM

Kimo said:

A wordy unimpressive defensive excuse. So all this comes down to the fact that one leader with antipathies would lead to an overwhelming NO vote, and another leader lead to a clear YES vote? Didn't anyone else bother to put in some effort into the examination? Or is the documentation actually that bad as it looks like, so no-one could vote on facts but had to be lead by a strong voice of some leader?

The only outcome of this mess is ISO loosing credibility and becoming a laughing-stock of this world. The Swedish vote was likewise a travesty of standardization procedure, so we neighbours have to deal with the fact that our nations partially have become banana-republics, where anything can be bought or manipulated.

I've a quite relaxed attitude toward Microsoft, especially since my work consists of management of Microsoft system, but this whole process have lead to a clear decision: I will in my business refuse any OOXML documents to be either received or delivered! There are other formats that are safer to use, and hence more secure.

# April 1, 2008 11:31 PM

yumi said:

well, we'll see after the investigation.. i don't belive a single word from standards norway at this moment

# April 2, 2008 12:53 AM said:

The  International Organization for Standardization's (ISO) approval of Microsoft's OOXML

# April 2, 2008 1:57 AM

tubby said:

@brent and @ruud,

This is worse than the situation with Automaker XYZ, because with the auto one has the option of pulling out a calibre and measuring the tires of each existing automobile.

But if I wanted to implement OOXML's "autoSpaceLikeWord95", I would need to reverse engineer Microsoft's products. And if I read my Microsoft EULA correctly, that is expressly forbidden.

So now we have an international "standard" which is not only unimplemented by anyone except the abusive monopoly, but it is plainly *illegal* for others to implement fully in most jurisdictions.

What idiocy.

# April 2, 2008 8:34 AM

Henk said:

So what this long response boilst down to is:

1. We had to say 'yes'

2. two meetings in August en march couldn't come to a 'yes' conclusion.

3. fortunately we did an inquiry before our august meeting which resulted in a 'yes' although we admit that many of those responses were prefabricated, so did not show any understadning of the issue by the respondant.

4. So we ignored the technical debate completely, and for reasons we don't need to tell you fell back to the results of our pre-august inquiry.

I think this statement was so long, so they hoped people wouldn't read it till the end.

I wonder what ISO will do to restore it's reputation. Microsoft, I assume doesn't care about reputation given the enormous fines they pay in Europe, without changing attitude, however ISO should care because their core business is being seen as a reliable source.

# April 2, 2008 9:09 AM

Mark said:

That this was posted by a Microsoft employee speaks volumes. Clearly, the reputation of ISO is in tatters after this debacle.

They need to learn that they can't jump into bed with Big Players.

# April 2, 2008 11:30 AM

Kimo said:

The following argument falls flat: "The leader of the committee has an important role succeed in creating agreement, but the leader of the committee had already in 2007 flagged his position which meant that he could no longer meet the criteria for neutrality."

Consensus seems to be that the leader/chairman should be neutral. Then I suppose Mr. Stephen McGibbon is very upset about the vote in Philippines, because at a 4/4 result the chairman voted "yes", and hence made the Philippine vote support OOMXL.

So in one country they sack a so called biased chairman (a potential no-voter) and in another the chairman decides the outcome (a yes-vote). This whole vote procedure has kind of a funny smell attached to it, don't you think?

# April 2, 2008 11:45 AM

Fredrik E. Nilsen said:


Steve Pepper was never sacked from the position as chairman. He withdrew himself from leading the final meeting in SN K/185.

Roger Frost from ISO is quoted in NY Times:

"Mr. Frost said he had received Mr. Pepper’s complaint, but upon investigation considered the Norwegian dispute to be an internal matter. “We have received background information from them and have no reason to question the validity of their vote,” Mr. Frost said.

# April 2, 2008 4:35 PM

Kimo said:

@Fredrik E. Nilsen

Yes, it was incorrect and I noticed it too late (no editing of posts possible), my apologies. However the main dilemma is still present. This time around the devil isn't in the details, it's just too plain obvious what have happened in many cases.

Furthermore Steve Peppers resignation is used as an argument, isn't he? Might it be because he's voicing complaints about how Microsoft has used strong-arm tactics?

The strange change of mind, or should we more precisely say change of procedure, by Ivar Jachwitz is confusing. Who is twisting the truth?

# April 2, 2008 11:27 PM

hAl said:

This issue shows that Norway like Sweden is not to keen on stuffing their committees.

Sweden was stuffed by Microsoft partners and Norway by ooxml opponents but both did not act on the vote majority gained by that.

# April 3, 2008 7:00 AM

Zufallsbit said:

Eines der widerlichsten Lehrstücke in Sachen Lobbyismus, Korruption und Monopolmissbrauch ist vorbei. Microsoft hat mal wieder seinen Willen bekommen. Und weil solche Schweinereien vor allem deswegen passieren, weil es den durchschnittlichen Nicht

# April 3, 2008 9:29 AM said:

This text is the approximate translation of Standard Norge's press release " Standard Norges behandling

# April 3, 2008 11:50 AM

Fiery Spirited said:

The reply from Norway essentially breaks down into...

since there were more yes answers in the august hearing we can't really listen to the march meeting.

Problem with the argument is that there are very little ground for making the poll equal with technical commitee.

It is disingenious to assume that the people answering in August had the full information about the number of errors in OOXML. There are even less reason to believe that they could anticipate a BRM that must use a paper ballot since they did not have time to discuss the solutions proposed.

It is an open question if the people answering in august would still stick to the same oppinion now. The reason why this is the case is that it is unknown if these has kept themself updated about the truth about OOXML. If standard Norway really wanted to use a the hearing method to decide things they should have done a new hearing with the evaluation from the march meeting included to the people voting. Limiting correct information is the key for how Microsoft managed to trick the world to accept OOXML.

# April 3, 2008 12:05 PM

Stephen McGibbon said:

I've just uodated the post to reflect the official English version on Standard Norge's site. I've archived the rough translation and linked to it too.

Thanks visitors from Groklaw for your comments. The situation oin Norway was essentially misrepresented by most of the English coverage, and this was of course exploited by Groklaw. I am sure that as people learn more of the facts they will realise there's no controversy, but there are some people who are disappointed that they couldn't intimidate Standards Norge into submission.

# April 3, 2008 12:23 PM

Matusow's Blog said:

In light of the approval of Open XML as an international standard (see the ISO press release here ),

# April 3, 2008 5:41 PM

AbsoluteVista said:

When you tell a lie often enough, it takes on a patina of truth each time it is uttered, and after a

# April 17, 2008 5:18 AM

Eric White's Blog said:

Steven McGibbon notes that Standards Norway have posted a press release "Standard Norges behandling av

# July 28, 2010 5:36 PM