Open Data Formats: Intro and Documents

The benefit to the consumer is the same benefit used by all proprietary-source advocates: because people are paid to create the software, it is of a higher caliber.  Though there are plenty of good examples where this holds up, this argument is starting to get very weak.  My perfect case and point is the ubiquity of the HTML data format, which has never been usurped by a proprietary format.  It only seems fitting that in my opinion, the good Open Source Software web browsers (Mozilla Firefox) are also far superior to the proprietary ones (Internet Explorer), but again, that’s a completely subjective opinion and opens the doors to a whole flame-war, which is not the point of this post.

Open data formats have no such lock-in as those found in proprietary formats.  Any programmer that wants to is able to download the data specification and begin writing his or her own implementation of the data format.  This often goes hand in hand with developers who are creating FOSS applications, many of whom have no budget and therefore cannot afford to pay a proprietary format license holder a royalty to use the format.  Some FOSS developers also choose to reverse engineer proprietary formats so as to create converter programs or offer more universal format support in their product, but this begins to lead developers down scary paths regarding patent and copyright issues and it may be more trouble than it’s worth.

But enough of this.  This post is to support the transition to open data formats no matter which operating system you are currently running.  Pros and Cons of a switch to a specific format will be listed and I honestly will try to be fair about these topics, but I do want you to switch. The whole series will cover many areas of data formats, but today’s post will cover data formats related to documents. Let’s get the ball rolling!


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