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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
Google Trademark Suit Dropped
In what Google is declaring as a victory, American Blind & Wallpaper Factory
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'
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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 email@example.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
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.
Got something to add? Let us have it! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail
Lafe Low is the editorial liaison for ECG Events.