Open Standard Won't Be Microsoft's

The door to having its Office Open XML adopted as an international standard was abruptly and unexpectedly closed to Microsoft yesterday.

Two of the international standards governing bodies -- the International Organization for Standardization (ISO, which governs all standards) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC, which governs technology standards) -- registered votes just short of the majority percentages that Microsoft needed to be the new standard bearer.

Microsoft missed two of the required criteria in order to have its Open XML format designated as a standard. Ultimately, 51 countries (of the 87 that voted) supported Microsoft. That's just short of the 75 percent vote it needed. Microsoft also fell short in votes from the ISO and IEC's Joint Technical Committee 1.

Japan, Canada, India, China, Brazil, France and Britain voted against Microsoft. Switzerland, Portugal, Germany and the United States voted in favor of its bid. Some opponents chocked up their refusal to vote for the company to excessive lobbying by local Microsoft executives.

Microsoft lobbying too hard on its own behalf? Hard to believe.

The OpenDocument Format is the first one to have become an international standard (it passed in May 2006). For now at least, it stands alone.

What do you think about the ISO and IEC's decision? Do you agree or disagree? How important do you think standards will be with open formats? Send your vote to me at llow@redmondmag.com.

Hackers Get Into Pentagon E-Mail
The Pentagon yesterday revealed that hackers had gotten into an unclassified e-mail system in Defense Secretary Robert Gates' office. Apparently, the break-in happened last spring, and the system went down for three weeks after that. While the system is within Gates' office, the Pentagon claims there was never a threat to classified systems.

Speculations were flying that the Chinese military was responsible for the hack, although Washington made no official accusation and, naturally, Chinese officials denied any involvement. Such ruffling of feathers on both sides comes at a delicate time as China defends itself in the face of numerous product recalls.

Pentagon officials minimized the seriousness of the event, saying that hackers try to penetrate the Pentagon's global network hundreds of times a day. Only a few of the most serious attempts are investigated further.

Does this scare you as much as it does me? Do you think it was a domestic miscreant or foreign nation? How do you go about securing your own e-mail infrastructure? Send me a secure, non-hackable message at llow@redmondmag.com.

Google Trademark Suit Dropped
In what Google is declaring as a victory, American Blind & Wallpaper Factory has dropped a suit initially filed in 2003. American Blind claimed that Google let rivals buy ads based on keywords when someone does a search for the company.

Google has been involved in similar suits, some of which it has successfully defended while others it has lost. In the final settlement agreement signed last Friday, both American Blind and Google agreed to dismiss the litigation, with neither side admitting any wrongdoing or accepting any liability for others' expenses.

Google can continue its lucrative policy of selling ads based on keywords, including those in trademarks. This is another line in the sand drawn in the Wild West of online advertising.

Where do you think the lines should be drawn? What constitutes unfair competition? Should search engines like Google be allowed to hone in on search terms for fun and profit? Search me out at llow@redmondmag.com.

Yahoo Buys Up Ad Network
In another "blurification" of the worlds of the Internet and Madison Avenue, Yahoo has just bought online advertising network BlueLithium for $300 million. BlueLithium is currently the fifth-largest online advertising network, specializing in technology that tracks consumer behavior to deliver more relevant ads.

In other Yahoo news, top dog in sales Gregory Coleman is leaving the company. Hilary Schneider, Yahoo's executive vice president of local markets and commerce, will take over for him. Coleman will remain at Yahoo until February 2008.

Coleman's departure follows two quarters of declining profits and declining market share. It's rough in the online world.

As more search engine companies buy up ad agencies, how do you think it will affect what you view online or your Web habits? Is the pervasive advertising driving you nuts? What type of online ad do you find most obtrusive? Let me know at llow@redmondmag.com.

Mailbag: Keeping Users Safe
After the discovery of a new security threat that disguises harmful links as YouTube links, Lafe asked readers how they protect their users from online threats. Here's one reader's solution:

May I suggest some simple neuro-linguistic programming? It has been my experience that giving users a series of proscriptions such as those which you yourself suggest ("How many times have you had to tell your users NOT to click on unknown links, NOT to open attachments from unrecognized addresses, and so on?") is counterproductive and often largely ineffective. Rather than giving a user an arsenal of "Things to do when you've had a bad day and really want to push the envelope," we should provide a list of good computing habits and an understanding of why these habits are good.

For example: "Click only on links which you know to be trustworthy," having first explained the concepts of security and trust in terms which are relevant to them. Note the lack of the word NOT in the sentence. Regrettably, most people filter out the word "not" and that is why telling people what not to do is less likely to succeed. Additionally, there must also be an immediate and obvious benefit for the user to follow these principles, ranging from a simple threat to an appeal.

Users are just people trying to perform a job. As IT professionals, part of our job must surely be to make theirs easy for them as possible rather than placing impediments in their way. By telling them how to use IT resources rather than how NOT to use IT resources, we make our own job easier.
-Christopher

Got something to add? Let us have it! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to llow@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Lafe Low is the editorial liaison for ECG Events.

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