Sunday, January 28, 2007

PDF Specification released to AIIM/ISO

Adobe announced it will release the entire PDF specification (current version 1.7) to the International Standards Organization (ISO) via AIIM. PDF has reached a point in it’s maturity cycle where maintaining it in an open standards manner is the next logical step in evolution. Not only does this reinforce Adobe’s commitment to open standards (see also my earlier blog on the release of flash runtime code to the Tamarin open source project at Sourceforge), but it demonstrates that open standards and open source strategies are really becoming a mainstream concept in the software industry.

So what does this really mean? Most people know that PDF is already a standard so why do this now? This event is very subtle yet very significant. PDF will go from being an open standard/specification and defacto standard to a full blown du jure standard. The difference will not affect implementers much given PDF has been a published open standard for years. There are some important distinctions however. First – others will have a clearly documented process for contributing to the future of the PDF specification. That process also clearly documents the path for others to contribute their own Intellectual property for consideration in future versions of the standard. Perhaps Adobe could have set up some open standards process within the company but this would be merely duplicating the open standards process, which we felt was the proper home for PDF. Second, it helps cement the full PDF specification as the umbrella specification for all the other PDF standards under the ISO umbrella such as PDF/A, PDF/X and PDF/E. The move also helps realize the dreams of a fully open web as the web evolves (what some are calling Web 2.0), built upon truly open standards, technologies and protocols. It also makes me immensely proud to be an Adobe Evangelist.

Adobe will continue to work hard to innovate on and around the PDF standard going forward.

I personally want to acknowledge some key individuals who are external to Adobe that were instrumental in the process. Bob Sutor (IBM), James Governor (Redmonk) and Gary Edwards (Open Stack) instilled upon myself and others at Adobe that embracing a course of open standards makes good business sense and is good for the community. Gary, James, Bob – thank you! The talks we had back in May 2005 were an inspiration for me.

To find out more on this, we are also hosting a blogger chat live at 17:00 Pacific Time Monday January 29, 2007 at http://my.adobe.acrobat.com/pdfconversations. If you want to blog about this, please feel free to join in. Space is limited. Leonard Rosenthol has published the history of PDF on his blog at http://www.acrobatusers.com/blogs/leonardr/history-of-pdf-openness. It is very well written and contains lots of supplemental information. The official Adobe FAQ’s are linked from http://www.adobe.com/pdf/release_pdf_faq.html. Last but not least, please leave a comment here and let me know what you think. I read all comments.

24 comments:

  1. Thank you - I have been waiting for this for years.

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  2. This is a great move but I wonder why Adobe waited so long. Many people including myself have been asking for this for years. Not withstanding the good news, I hope this is a good thing for the future of PDF.

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  3. Hey Duane,

    This is awesome! I couldn't the business week link in your post...try this one http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20070128005026&newsLang=en

    Also, see my comments here: http://blogs.nitobi.com/andre/?p=280

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  4. Andre:

    Thanks for the great write up on your blog. I think that the Businesswire links all use a session so they may not work. By tomorrow, anyone should be able to find it by searching for tech news on PDF though so it shouldn't be an issue.

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  5. Congratulations, Duane, welcome news. Has Adobe also made a patent non-assert covenant surrounding the proposed standard? I don't see anything on the subject of patents in the FAQ.

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  6. Sveinung Kvilhaugsvik29 Jan 2007, 06:44:00

    Now that you see that it makes business sense: Any plans for simular moves when it comes to your other formats (flash, shockwave, etc)?

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  7. Jon Ferraiolo, IBM29 Jan 2007, 07:10:00

    Sounds like a good move to me. :-) How does this relate to Mars (the XML version of PDF at Adobe Labs)? Will the Mars/XML version of PDF be part of the PDF standard that goes through AIIM/ISO?

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  8. "Not only does this reinforce Adobe’s commitment to open standards..."

    Please. Flash specification is totally proprietary.

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  9. Excellent news. Thanks, Adobe folks!

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  10. Congrats to you guys! As a side-note, I'm glad you did a "blog press release" for this as well. Good going on that ;)

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  11. Regarding Flash being totally proprietary, this is not quite true. There has been healthy debate on this in the past. You may want to read this post to get up to speed on the subject first, then please let us know what you think is a best next step. Cheers

    How truly open is flash

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  12. Flash is not quite what I would call 100% proprietary. The Adobes are not going to release it further though. you can't build a flash viewer cause of the license.

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  13. PDF to ISO is good but it takes years to get anything done. I don't think it makes any difference in the meantime.

    What I would like to see is sourcecode donated to a place where we can all work on it.

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  14. Webmink (aka Simon):

    I am looking into this for you but I believe everyone has to do some form of this when you submit to an SDO. I'll get an answer and post it here.

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  15. d nickull: note that I said Flash *specification* is proprietary, not Flash technologies in general. If you're worried about proliferation of mutually incombatible players and tools, then prevent it with your trademark and certifications, or perhaps only allow GPLd players so that everyone can see and reuse any improvements made. As for proprietary technologies that are used for embedded multimedia, phase them out with open equivalents, such as Vorbis instead of mp3 for audio, Theora for video and so on. Those should be your best next steps.

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  16. John - at this time, Mars is still an experimental technology (that's why it is on Labs). Once it has reached a mature enough level, we will certainly explore submitting it to a standards body if that is what the PDF community wishes.

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  17. Alexander: Thank you. I'm passing your message on to others internally. It seems like something that Adobe needs to re-visit.

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  18. Does this mean Flash will be given to a standards body too?

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  19. This is indeed good news. Well, it had to come, because otherwise, leading customers of PDF would have forced Adobe to do so (because they rely so much on PDF that it would have turned dangerous to depend on a sole proprietor of the technology).

    The FAQ page is not quite clear, but what about AcroForms and the JavaScript implementation?

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