Explaining Open Standards email attachements

Sam Liddicott sam at liddicott.com
Wed Mar 31 20:42:05 UTC 2010

I think the message is a great summary of the problem; but from experience I say that users who don't already have a political understanding of the issues or a thorough technical background will:

1. Not be able to understand what to do in order to comply with the message
2. Not be capable of carrying out the steps if they do understand.

The document also mixes ideas of convenience with politics, but comes across as being about convenience and interoperability.

For example: most users cannot handle ogg for flac files. Most users who can't accept mp3 but can accept ogg do so out of conscious rejection of mp3. And so the argument for ogg is political and not about interoperability and therfore will seem dishonest to non-technical readers who will then doubt the entire argument. Imagine when nearly everyone they send an ogg to (after the initial difficulty of producing the ogg - from an mp3) needs to ask what an ogg is and how to play it. It will soon be apparent that mp3 should have been used.

On the other hand I often say that I don't want to have to buy five hundred pounds of office suite and operating system in order to read their docx (or worse: ms publisher) properly; I ask for a PDF (which they are familiar with) and there is a free printer driver pdf writer for windows which I can point then to. Thus I reduce my problem and their future problems. Asking for ogg would make problems.

So I think the stance of the document needs clarifying, is it a political document or a guide to convenient communication - it can't serve both aims well.


-----Original Message-----
From: Hugo Roy <hugo at fsfe.org>
Sent: 31 March 2010 18:18
To: discussion at fsfeurope.org
Subject: Re: Explaining Open Standards email attachements


A new version is available at:

Send me attachments I can read, use open standards!

There are many ways to share documents, files and data over the 
Internet. Among them, emails are often used because people can 
communicate from one mail server1 to another without any difficulty. Why 
does it work so simply? Because emails are designed to use a set of open 
standards2, based on the Internet protocols.

However, sometimes people send attachments along with their emails, and 
it happens frequently that the attachments cannot be read by the 
recipients. For example, many attached files are documents produced by 
word processors and it can be impossible to read them correctly if you 
do not have the same word processor. Many proprietary word processors 
use proprietary file formats3. In 2002, a campaign was started to put an 
end to Word attachments. But the same is true for all kinds of documents 
and files: texts, spreadsheets, slides, videos, etc.

When you attach a file to an email, please make sure that your 
correspondent will be able to read your files correctly. It is a basic 
principle of courtesy. And there is an easy way to make sure it is 
possible: use open standards. If you do so, your correspondent will have 
the possibility to choose which program he or she wants. Open standards 
guarantee sustainability and interoperability for your data, making sure 
you will be able to access them in the future, even with another 
software, on another platform or operating system.

Moreover, by promoting open standards you will help everyone: sharing 
documents can be as easy as sending and receiving emails! If you receive 
an email using proprietary file formats, don't hesitate to share this 
page and explain why it is important to use Open Standards.

Campaigns for Open Standards

    * Document Freedom Day
    * Play Ogg and rOgg On!

On Document Freedom Day, the FSF started a campaign to call on computer 
users to start politely rejecting proprietary attachments.

Organisations and Software supporting Open Standards

    * OpenOffice.org
    * VideoLan, the project making VLC
    * Free Software Foundation Europe support Open Standards

   1. ^ Mail servers transfer emails from one computer to another. For 
more information, you can check Wikipedia
   2. ^ Open Standards are protocols and file formats that can be freely 
used and implemented, and are designed in an open process. For more 
information, see the Open Standards definition.
   3. ^ Microsoft Office by default save your files in the ".doc" format 
or the ".docx" format. If you share these documents with people using 
different word processors, it will not work properly. Good alternatives 
for Microsoft Word are documents in .RTF or in .ODT (use the "Save As" 

  Hugo Roy			     im: hugo at jabber.fsfe.org
  French Coordinator		http://www.fsfe.org/about/roy

Free Software Foundation Europe works to create general understanding
and support for software freedom in politics, law and society-at-large.
For more information, see www.fsfe.org

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