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Standards divide European archives

By Kevin J. O'Brien, International Herald Tribune

When governments in Belgium, France, Germany, Norway, Denmark, Brazil and Croatia moved last year to convert some of their official documents to a new format called ODF, they thought they would be sidestepping an old rivalry among software vendors that have their own proprietary formats.

The underlying code of ODF, which stands for OpenDocument Format, is free and without license restrictions, allowing software developers to create their own customized products on top of it. In May 2006, the world's top standards body, the International Organization for Standardization, based in Geneva, made ODF a global standard.

But in September, the same organization is poised to give a rival standard from Microsoft the same global imprimatur, in effect creating two supposedly universal open standards - which happen to be incompatible.

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