When people say MS Word is a standard, I ask them to tell me where the document format is published — standards are published by standards bodies, right? So now MS is moving to something vaguely resembling XML for Office documents, and we’re supposed to celebrate the end of format tyranny. But as Andrew Orlowski puts it, it’s mostly a shell game.
“Well formed” means that the document will parse without errors – it doesn’t mean that the document will make any sense.
That’s exactly what I’ve always loved about Bob Dylan’s lyrics, but that’s a separate topic. Meanwhile (as Sun’s Simon Phipps puts it):
“We continue to live in a world where all our know-how is locked into binary files in an unknown format. If our documents are our corporate memory, Microsoft still has us all condemned to Alzheimer’s.”
In other words, Microsoft’s eternal survival is assured by our need for our data to remain accessible. If in ten thousand years Redmond is destroyed by mutant porpoises, archaeologists may still need to reverse engineer the Word document format before they can begin to read history.