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Gary Edwards

Hi Sam,

+1. Finally we have a single file format that everyone can agree on.

CDF meets the open standards requirements of IBM and Sun.

CDF meets the legacy "billions of binary" document and application specific requirements of Microsoft.

And CDF meets the da Vinci market requirements; those hard business process realities of MSOffice bound workgroups that confronted us in the real world trenches of Massachusetts.

So what's not to like?

The big vendors are geared up for war. The unexpected appearance of a peaceful solution acceptable to all is likely to be met with some anger, angst and fear. Suspicions will run wild that CDF is somehow a plot by the other side to undermine the great war machines now rolling with thunder, shock and awe.

The truth is that the W3C has been working quietly on the future of the Internet. CDF is just one of many pieces they've assembled to help the world transition into the Semantic Web and the Age of Collaborative Computing.

The most striking aspect about their work is that it is so clearly application, platform and vendor independent. While ODF and MS-OOXML forces argue over how many application vendors are in their respective camps, CDF is uniquely just the opposite.

With CDF there are no application-vendor specific bindings or influences to be found. It's as clean as anything we've ever seen.

Check out the GOSCON Panel Slide Show. The terms of discussion have changed.


"Hey buddy, can you spare a guy a garage?"

Bruce D'Arcus

I'm having a hard time understanding what CDF even is, much less how it can resolve the big problems you claim to be solving.

It seems to me on poking around that it's essentially an extension of the DOM to account for compound documents, and maybe within that some conventions for embedding foreign markup.

But if I'm right, that's a long way from guaranteeing interoperability. In other words, it's "clean" (to use Gary's word) because there's simply hardly anything to pollute. The real meat is in the standard markup that one might bring together in the context of these documents. And those markup languages will still be under strain to accommodate extensions (since, for example, XHTML won't be adequate for real world documents; no footnotes, no precise page layout, etc., etc.).

What am I missing?

Patrick Durusau

Well, anyone interested in a delivery format for cellphones, will be very pleased. Some of us have, ahem, larger platforms and more complex documents than can be managed by a cellphone. A few of us anyway.

I really tire of comments about ODF such as: "does not adequately respect existing standards and does not address the market's requirements for a single Universal Document Format with which any and all applications can work on an equal basis."

That is simply false. ODF relies upon the same SVG, MathML, XForms, and SMIL standards as your new friend, CDF. But you would have to read the ODF standard to have noticed that.

It is also bizarre since there is not nor will there ever be a "Universal Document Format" that is going to meet all needs. Over time a core of structures will emerge that can be expressed by some common XML encoding. But that is going to take time and real contributions, not drive by bloggings.

Other features, beyond that core of structures, will have to rely upon mappings between various encodings. But the trick is going to be to fully disclose the encodings so that meaningful mappings between those encodings becomes possible.

The key to avoiding these mistakes is to actually read the ODF standard. Much better than relying upon second hand reports from unreliable sources.

Patrick Durusau

John Drinkwater

I call bullshit on this item:

ODF … “Converges desktop, server, web, & devices” … No

Sam Hiser

John- Care to elaborate?

J David Eisenberg

CDF is an elegant concept indeed. I don't see how it is compatible with legacy documents until you have a relatively complete implementation of CSS3 for paged media. I'm not aware of any such implementation (though I haven't been actively looking in that area).


J Dave-

That's more like it.

Bruce D'Arcus

Even with CSS3, it (XHTML) won't be fully compatible with legacy document formats, nor with ODF or OOXML.

I'll believe it when I see a publicly released (and open source) version of the fabled plug-in, and actually see it fully round-tripping complex ODF or OOXML documents (with fields, footnotes, tables, headers, etc.). Until then, this is all just marketing hot air.

J David Eisenberg

??? Your response doesn't explain how CDF can do page layout without CSS3.

P.S. Just because I think CDF is an elegant concept doesn't mean I think it's the solution to the world's problems. I think that basic black with pearls and high heels is elegant, too, but you aren't going to see me wearing it.


Thank you for your words Patrick ( I'm a software developer interested in trully open standards and i appreciate your work at SC34 and V1, and ... thanks for keeping the quality of ODF ).

Greetings from Argentina.



Umm, when checking out the CDF specs, it seems that it's just a container format. Yes, it's fully compatible with MS Office Formats, but only by EMBEDDING them. So the application that reads the CDF file must know how to read MS Office files, right? Or did I really miss something major here?

Every format can be extended, but CDF doesn't seem to be any silver bullet that you're telling us it will be. XHTML+SVG etc just won't do it. You have to have extensions to get e.g. spreadsheet data into the document.

CDF seems more like an alternative to any print format (like XPS and PDF), not editable content like spreadsheet data.

But please, elaborate more on this so that I can see the light. Otherwise this is just another format that doesn't solve the problem, only causes more.


Is it possible that CDF will have "full compatibility with legacy MS formats"???

Will it be possible to open CDF documents in Word 95? Will it be possible to read all doc/xls/ppt files without conversion?

*That* would be full compatibility -- but CDF would be implementing a closed standard, not an open one.

So, I think it's really strange to talk about "full" compatibility with legacy formats. Please help us understand that.

Stephen Wilson

I am a little confused by the goal of some of these "Universal Formats". Can a file format be universal if it can't render the same output on every platform? As long as the format accepts binary blobs that can only be rendered by particular software or hardware, as oppose to all hardware and software designed to use the universal format, can it be any better than the options we have now? If I dump a Quicktime movie into a document and 80% of the implementors of the file format can't render a Quicktime movie, what have I gained?


what do you mean "mong ODF's weaknesses is its provenance from a specific application and the unwillingness of its originators to release it into the Bazaar,1" there is a clear spec thats in 300 pages.

Shae Erisson

CDF is 'backwards compatible' with Microsoft Office formats via the da Vinci plug-in that converts MS Office to CDF.
But OpenOffice can already save MS Office documents as ODF, right?
So ODF is actually compatible with legacy MS formats.
Converges desktop, server, web and devices? If that means 'can ODF be viewed on each of those' then, yes.
Big vendor independent and unencumbered IPR are the same point for ODF, I don't have a problem with the right to counter-sue anyone who is suing about an open file format.
What's an interoperability framework? Is that yet another way to say "Can you save your document as MS Office?"

Looks to me like CDF is all about ODF being 'not invented here'.

Anonymous commenter

CDF is an interesting idea, BUT:

ODF is about being able to EDIT all documents. CDF is about being able to VIEW them.

Se the difference? We absolutely need both! CDF is not an alternative to ODF at all.

ODF is needed when you want the other party being able to edit your document. When you just want the other party to read your document, it is foolish to send your original office document anyway. People usually (or at least should) use PDF for that.

CDF would be great though because it would make it possible to publish documents in web in a format browsers can render...


I love the concept of a truly universal document format and applaud the W3C efforts. However, since Microsoft only makes money from two products (Windows and MS Office), I suspect more fear, uncertainty and doubt in the format wars. Those guys became the gorilla in the market for a reason and that reason is that they play rough. OOXML is just another rough play, and surely not their last.

It is naive to think that Microsoft will support CDF if it threatens their business model. Only when they choose to move beyond MS Office as a business model can CDF widely succeed, baring market disruptions that I just don't see at the moment.

However, as a Unix and Mac user, I have come to use a variety of tools for document processing and, rather surprisingly, find myself promulgating read-only documents (e.g. PDF, HTML) more often than editable documents. That means that much of time (*not* all of the time), I can safely use Pages or OOo or vi or whatever). Perhaps that recognition has helped others to leave MS Office at least some of the time.

A common editable standard still eludes us, and that is the crux of this argument. I can only say that gaining a wider consensus is bound to assist the Open camp in pressuring MS to move away from their current model. Therefore, I strongly support the effort without hoping too much.

Sam Hiser

Thank you all for your comments.

J David: CSS is certainly an important part of our conception but I'm not free to discuss it in detail until release.

Bruce: I would expect anyone to be skeptical until they see running code.

For those of you understandably curious about how we visualize CDF as the Universal Document Format, it's perfectly natural to want an explanation how this is going to work, but I'm afraid it is premature to discuss details. We did not instigate the PR campaign and only seek to clarify our position at this time.

Shea Ericsson: no, our position is that ODF has the wrong objectives. Also, your comment contains a common misunderstanding of ODF|OpenOffice.org's level of compatibility with MS Office documents. The reason the three most advanced governments to explore ODF implementations in their organizations are reverting their policies back to ODF + OOXML is that it is very difficult for large enterprises to gain a high-enough level of document fidelity in interchange when they insert OpenOffice into their business processes. Work tends to stop too much because people and their work depend upon document characteristics and application features working in specific ways which break with OpenOffice added into the workflows. We once hoped that OpenOffice was enough but it is necessary to go deep into the MS Office application to enable business processes to function in non-Microsoft formats.

prototype: We don't expect Microsoft to support CDF; we expect the market to demand it and will provide facilities for people using MS Office to adopt CDF without new investment. A great deal of the endeavor rests with implementation and execution. At least we know who doesn't want a Universal Document Format; it appears that the people who do want a Universal Document Format are the customers and they have been excluded from the standards process.

Bruce D'Arcus

So you're open standards advocates who are "not free to discuss it [technical plans] in detail until release"? Care to explain that contradiction?

And last I checked, neither you nor Gary have responded to my question about how you can claim CDF solves your requirements when the CDF group itself appears to say otherwise.

Sam Hiser


I meant release of running code, to anyone, and not necessarily the public -- something substantive which people can taste without a lot of explaining, which is never fully satisfying.

I am (I'll not speak for my colleagues) a member of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and my primary goal is to promote the use and successful development of Free Software. To make this possible, I am interested also in methods of all kinds which can disrupt Microsoft's control of software users' behavior.

Bruce, we are business people. It is important to manage information about our business in ways that make us successful.

Your bullying comment suggests I should do what you wish because I am associated with open source. It's a non-sequitur.

You echo a false notion: that we believe CDF is a panacea for interoperability. It's what we can do with it that counts, and others have correctly focused on the importance of the open standards XHTML2 & CSS3. But we are committed to working within the W3C fully and utilizing the excellent and rigorous CDR test suite for conformance. (Again, one of our chief problems with ODF is its lack of a conformance testing regime.)

It's not the meat; it's the motion, Bruce.


Given Mr. Hiser's espoused hatred of all things M$ - which I agree with - I find the timing of his switch to supporting CDF rather than ODF somewhat troubling.

I seems to me that it would have been much better to wait until AFTER the next ISO vote on OOXML in February to announce this switch. Announcing it 4 months beforehand can do nothing but increase the FUD concerning ODF, thus actually AIDING M$ in their quest to have OOXML approved as an ISO standard. OOXML needs to be blown out of the water once and for all as a viable "open" format, and anything an open source advocate does to help M$ in anyway whatsoever seems very contradictory.

I wonder if Mr. Hiser could please explain that?


M. BSSnyder -

Thanks for asking.

We waited from April (when we recognized our differnces were insurmountable) to Sept 2007 in order not to disrupt that important Sept vote on OOXML -- which, you recall, was a failure for OOXML.

Time is an important factor in disabling the monopoly -- which is our goal. So any waiting requires discipline and takes nerve.

Among our goals has been to articulate weaknesses in ODF so it will be improved more rapidly to address key enterprise market requirements.

We see a threat to ODF v1.2's acceptance at ISO in mid-2008, regardless of what happens to OOXML at the Feb 2008 BRM.

In addition, we see OOXML having no obstacles to adoption in the market-place, regardless of what happens at the BRM.

We believe that OOXML should not be ratified by ISO, that would be unwarranted and bad, and feel the risks of compromising its rejection are well out-weighed by the problems of acquiescing to the enforced silence about ODF's limitations.

It's a question we've looked at carefully for some time now...and a good one.

Dual Action Cleanse Review

what do you mean "mong ODF's weaknesses is its provenance from a specific application and the unwillingness of its originators to release it into the Bazaar,1" there is a clear spec thats in 300 pages.


CDF is an elegant concept indeed. I don't see how it is compatible with legacy documents until you have a relatively complete implementation of CSS3 for paged media. I'm not aware of any such implementation (though I haven't been actively looking in that area).

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Sam Hiser




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