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.