Every once in a while you come across a good Idea. Tonight, I just read one. David Berlind, on ZD.net posits the idea of Open Document Format (ODF) could be a transport mechanism for moving content between different wikis.
Could ODF be the Net’s new, frictionless document DNA? by ZDNet‘s David Berlind — There’s no reason, for example, that, regardless of what proprietary markup languages the different wiki solution providers use to put a pretty face on Web authoring, that they cannot natively store those documents in the XML-based ODF. […]
Now this is the type of idea that I believe will happen more frequently once ODF picks up steam. It is the open format of HTML that gave rise to most of what we have on the Internet today. Everyone competes to make it better and more compelling. With closed formats, ala Word, there is not the same kind of pressure to advance the format and when it does change we are at the mercy of one company to give us solutions for migration. With an open format, market pressures and new ideas will create a dynamic system that gives users the benefits.
The only reason to keep a document format closed is to keep your customers locked-in. There is absolutely no advantage to users from using a closed document format. This will force the market giant, Microsoft, to once again compete solely on the merit of its product and not rely on lock-in and the advantages that they get from being the only one to fully support the document format. Remember how much better Word became when it was competing with WordPerfect? The features implemented really had the user in mind. However, once they crushed the competition the goal of new features was not to improve the users productivity, it was to use those new features to reinforce the tie-in/lock-in with other upstream Microsoft products.
There are benefits for Microsoft as well. Because of a standardized format, their upstream products could work with different word processors and different platforms. This, in my opinion, is the direction that Microsoft needs to move to stay relevant for the next 20 years. There are smart people at Microsoft and they do have some very good tools, however those people are often hamstrung from having goals that are in direct opposition to Microsoft’s current philosophy of product tie-ins. Now is the time for Microsoft to use its brains and not its market muscle. It will stop the hemorahging of talent and bring you real customer loyalty in the long run.