For those of you interested in the policies/politics side of file formats, I've seen a couple folks point out this bill currently in place in Texas (http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlodocs/80R/billtext/html/SB00446I.htm)
As all of you know by now, I think it's very cool to see this attention being paid to file formats, and the importance they play in all of our lives. I've been working on this stuff for years, and it's always fun to see other folks talking about your work. Here are the traits they'd like to see in a file format in Texas:
Each electronic document created, exchanged, or maintained by a state agency must be created, exchanged, or maintained in an open, Extensible Markup Language based file format, specified by the department, that is:
It's great to look at things like this and think about the scenarios folks have in mind. Rather than talk about motivations in terms of "levels of openness", I think it's easier to discuss it in terms of scenarios or use cases. Most policies around file formats are there to ensure the following:
There are a lot of other factors that can help you achieve these four goals, but those are all implementation decisions, and don't necessarily prevent you from achieving your goals. For example, using existing technologies like ZIP and XML helps you achieve #3 because there are already tools out there that support them (they aren't necessary for success though). You could go invent your own technology as well, and still achieve #3 assuming you fully document that new technology, but it's often easier leverage what's already there and can help you achieve a more rapid level of adoption in the community.
If you look at the bill in Texas, you can see that they have these goals in mind, and have set 4 criteria points to help them meet the goals:
As I said at the beginning, it's fun seeing so much attention being paid to file formats. It's always important to remove the more "religious" aspects from the debate, and really drill into the scenarios. What are you trying to do with the documents, and what do you want to see put in place to help you succeed.