Firefox 3.1 beta 1 adds support for OGG formats

Big boost to the PlayOGG campaign coming from Firefox:

This is the first beta from Mozilla to include support for <video> and the <audio> elements. This beta includes support for the OGG Theora and OGG Vorbis formats on all platforms.

It’s going to be easier to use this format if millions of users will be able to play it without adding additional plugins. This is really a major milestone for open standards on the web. The pressure on patented formats like the whole MPEG4 family will increase.

More juicy details about FF beta 1 on Firefox 3.1 beta 1 – an overview of features for web developers.

OOXML: free software is back to square one

We’re back to square one, 1 ISO standard on each side of the barricade since Microsoft managed to convince the ISO that its proprietary standard, OOXML’  deserves the approved stamp. For all the money Google and IBM have thrown trying to stop it, it seems they’ve lost this battle. But I’ve learned yesterday from a ISO member that there are still 60 days for any country to appeal the decision. Given the irregularities mentioned by many, this is not a remote possibility.

But anyway, I wish we would all move on and focus on two main actions for two main groups of people.’  Developers should focus to deliver good code to compete with Microsoft Office.’  Advocates and lobbyist should instead convince Microsoft customers and Microsoft execs directly to modify the Open Specification Promise in order to fix its shortcomings (and make it compatible with GPLv3).’  I think this will help free software (whose interests don’t necessarily coincide with those of IBM and Google) and I’m sure that there are people at Microsoft ready to listen.

Final stages of the office documents standards war

If you close your eyes and stay in silence for a few minutes you will hear the echo of the fight engaged by Microsoft against Google and IBM (with many more smaller allies) to dominate the future of office documents. I’m now following from the distance and there is so much dust it’s impossible to see who is winning.

It’s clear though who is losing: ISO, the once glorious International Standards Organization lost. Its image of highly respected organization is devastated by the abuse of the inevitable cracks in its regulament that led to many irregularities. It’s easy to blame Microsoft this time: their OOXML proposal is not ready, they’re late in its development and it’s so bloated it’s impossible to implement. On the contrary ISO approved ODF (ISO 26300) is good enough, stable and widely used already.

It’s a sad, sad story, however it will end.

If you’re interested to discuss the issues of open standards and you’re in Milano on April 2nd, I’ll be at OMAT360 to listen to the round table about the implications of file format standards in the society. It’s going to be interesting, with speakers from Microsoft, Adobe, OO.org, public administration and others.

Celebrating Document Freedom Day 2008

A group of free software organizations and companies declared today the Document Freedom Day, a day dedicated to the promotion of Free Document Formats and Open Standards in general. Data lock-in is a very serious issue for knowledge based economy and knowledge workers. All we do is collect data to elaborate information and create knowledge. When we store this knowledge on our computers we better make sure that we will be able to retrieve them any time with ease.

Open standards are the only way to start securing the future of society. Unfortunately greed of companies promoting proprietary standards together with ill advised governments can put our future in joepardy.

Today I join FSFE, Funambol and the rest of the crowd celebrating document freedom with a wider perspective than the just the ‘office documents’ we’re used to. When I think of a document on my computer I think of every file I store in there, every database, every map, every picture, every email message, every bookmark, every calendar entry. That’s my life, my work, my being today and my future, my knowledge, the product of my life. And that’s on my computer as well as on my cell phone and in web-based applications. I want to celebrate open standards, not just ODF, because only with open standard I can still dream of a different computer system where files don’t exist and all the knowledge I need comes to me at the right time, instead of me hunting it. Happy DFD2008.

Mobile open standards and Funambol on the Blackberry

Only a couple days ago I was having lunch with Carlo Piana and we started chatting about his Blackberry and about its dependence on MS Exchange. I’m moving the first steps in the mobile arena and I’ve already confirmed that the standards war on the desktop is nothing compared to the war on mobile standards. On the desktop there is ODF vs OOXML, Microsoft vs the rest of the industry; the market is much more mature and “stable” compared to mobile. What to me seemed a raging war looks now a cat-fight. On mobile the market is a volcano during eruption, and Funambol is in the middle of it. Beautiful and scary, I love it 🙂

Mobile needs that open standards emerge and get solid, therefore I’m happy to relay the announcement of the new version of Funambol’s Blackberry plugin v. 3.0.8 Community Edition. Go to the project’s page to download the binaries Over The Air (OTA) or as a bundle to be installed via USB cable. The source code is available on the ObjectWeb CVS repository (tag r_bbplugin_3_0_8). Check the release notes to see what’s new.

This release takes into account some of issues that Funambol Community has repeatedly pointed out in the last months on the mailing lists, and it’s as a starting point for the Community to further improve its quality adding the new features that the last generation Funambol clients already have.

Mobile need open standards, just like the desktop. There is another standards war to fight, so take your keyboards and start coding 🙂

W3C under siege: developers want free hands

Standards can be a Royal PITA and every developer and hacker knows that. But for users they’re the only way not to go crazy. Web standards give users the possibility to connect to the Internet from any device and blog, check email, get and make information. The debate is heating up on top of the Opera-vs-Microsoft complaint. A nice summary is: Is the Sacred Cow of Web Standards Headed for the Slaughterhouse?

There’s a movement afoot in the web development community that says it’s time to move beyond standards and take the web to a new levels. Unhappy with the pace of innovation at the W3C, many developers are calling on browser manufacturers to go beyond supporting official W3C specifications and develop tools to support new features.

I understand hackers and their frustration, but we must be aware that power in the digital domain is mainly in hackers and developers, users are at their mercy. But powers must be balanced and at the moment I see the W3C as the only organization that can still balance freedom for hackers to innovate with users’ freedom of choice. I wouldn’t trade my freedom as a user with that of developers to push proprietary tools like Flash or Silverlight and patented formats.

Microsoft, antitrust, EC, interoperability: deja-vu

Here we are again with the European Commission being asked by a competitor to remind Microsoft that competition doesn’t mean abuse of dominant position. I have a sense of deja-vu. Opera Software has asked the EC to investigate if Microsoft is abusing its dominant position by tying its browser, Internet Explorer, to the Windows operating system and by hindering interoperability by not following accepted Web standards.

As in the past antitrust case, won by the EC, there are two parts: one is the bundling IE with Windows and the other is the interoperability issue. As before, the bundling issue is less important because the real problem is interoperability, a word that Microsoft has always interpreted in a monopolist way: I do whatever I please, and I set ‘industry standards’ by myself convincing clients and partners to either follow me or be squashed.

There is little doubt that Internet Explorer doesn’t support W3C standards well as Safari/WebKit, Firefox and Opera do, but nonetheless many web application prefer to support the non-standard browser because of IE has 80% market share. So, the question whether Opera is right to complain to the antitrust authority is a clear yes. Opera made a tactical move to pressure the dominant gorilla and at the same time inform the public about the interoperability issue. If Opera really cares about interoperability it should also support the W3C to keep its power and resist against Nokia’s proposition to remove referent to patent-unencumbered OGG format from HTML5.

Update: Microsoft informed that internal builds of IE8 pass the ACID2 test

Another standards war starring Microsoft

Microsoft and Mozilla have engaged a fight over the future of’  JavaScript (better called ECMAScript): Microsoft prefers to abandon it and start anew with another language based on its .NET script, while Mozilla prefers to evolve JS to a new version, ECMAScript4.

Leaving the technical details aside, I think once again that Microsoft needs to develop a different culture in the organization.’  Chris Wilson could even be technically right, but the perception out there is that Microsoft is a big evil company that wants to control the web with its own proprietary formats.’  History and experience of many developers provides plenty of evidence, so any suggestion from Microsoft is not judged easily on its merits but on (mostly bad) feelings it provokes.

Please smart guys@Microsoft, do something to develop a culture of collaboration between peers and eradicate this MS centric view.

BetaNews | Microsoft, Mozilla Disagree Over JavaScript’s Future