[linux-elitists] Freeing document _formats_

Rick Moen rick@linuxmafia.com
Mon Jul 10 15:48:27 PDT 2000

I haven't gone very far with this, but I've been thinking that it's
about time to launch an assault on proprietary file formats.  And no,
I don't mean that all such formats are Evil and Must Die.  I mean that
many are an obstacle to interoperability and open source / free
software, and that an informational site could help people be aware they
have choices, and understand them.

It doesn't have to be an advocacy site, as it can be targeted at those
already aware of the problem of proprietary lock-in.

I envision it being broken down by document category (streaming video, 
word processor, page layout, sound, video, spreadsheet, flat database,
vector graphics,...), listing the common formats for each, problems of
each, strengths, convertability, multivendor support / sufficiency of
format documentation that is freely available.   "Problems" can include
patent nastiness, such as Microsoft's .ASF-format patent, and NDAs or
other agreements required before you can get the document specs.

Each category should also highlight the leading format that meets some
minimal standard of free-ness, if there is one.  If there isn't one,
we can link to the best known effort to create one.  (E.g., Frank
Lamonica mentioned to me in passing some effort to create a truly free
streaming-video format.)  Thus, the site can (might) serve the
additional purpose of helping _coalesce_ open source efforts to obsolete
proprietary formats.

Such a site would obviously have to start small, and get smarter, better
informed, more ambitious as it attacts relevant expertise to improve it
(assuming this happens).  I _personally_ would probably be badly
unprepared to supply the content, from my own paltry knowledge, since
I've dealt almost entirely in ASCII and HTML for the last decade.

Cheers,                                      Right to keep and bear
Rick Moen                                  Haiku shall not be abridged
rick (at) linuxmafia.com                      Or denied.  So there.

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