Dead formats and OpenSource

Wired News has an article about dead formats. It sparked a thought I've had for a while on some old standards that I thought would have died a long time ago, but are still used today.
One is the tar format. This way of storing data is very old, yet it is still used quite a bit in the Unix world. With zip (rar, etc.) like program I thought this format would dissapear, but it is still going strong. I have a magnetic tape from the late nineties that I'm sure I could still read since it's stored as a tarball.
Another one is TeX, which I wrote my master's thesis with. I thought TEX was great, but that no one except a techie would ever use it since it's so complicated. I looked that programs like Microsoft Word and figured that it would be the future. Yet TEX is still going strong and I could probably still compile my old thesis with no problems.
The common theme is that these "products" are open source, there is no company behind them hiding proprietary formats. This is also why it's so important to go to an open standard for "office" documents - basically I'm talking about the OpenDocument format (ODF). Outside of TEX or plain ASCII there is no other format that you can really guarantee will be still around in 20 years.


Jeff Kaplan said…

Funny, I blogged the same Wired News story yesterday. Without mentioning ODF, the clear implication is that open standards are the one sure bet to ensure future access to digital records/data. I've frequently commented on ODF (and other big tech policy issues).

Thanks for sharing.

Jeff Kaplan
Founder & Director
Open ePolicy Group
Scott Kirkwood said…
Jeff, nice blog - cool byline: Carpe apertio/Seize openness.

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