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Take a look beyond PDF, folks!


Why? Because PDF sucks at “future”.

Last week the Wolfram Group came out with its new file format named CDF. Well, isn’t that, wait … yes, that’s very close to “PDF” and I suspect the Wolfram Group was anxiously seeking for that proximity. For various reasons. I am not going to elaborate on that aspect, but I guess Adobe is as eager to earn money as is Mr Wolfram and his company. And both may rightfully pursuit their financial well being. But they’re both led astray. Because:

Neither Wolfram’s nor Adobe’s goals are our, the user bases’, goals.

Wolfram claims that “the CDF standard is a computation-powered knowledge container—as everyday as a document, but as interactive as an app.” That’s basically a very interesting goal which, in my opinion, leads into the right direction. Meanwhile, on the other side of the business world, Adobe tries to bloat their ageing PDF format with yet another thing, yet another thing, yet another thing – in order to make PDF happen in an online world. And fails to openly document what’s “inside”. Well, that will not cut it, either.

Most important: Both Wolfram and Adobe fail to notice that there is a substantial change going on: people interact online and do so more than ever before. And that interaction – hey, here it even gets political! – should be based on OPEN, broadly conceived and well documented standards.

Guess what; these standards are already here!

Just take a look at the W3C website to learn that we already have globally working boards who discuss and create standards dealing with type, semantics, graphics, 3D, video – just to name a few. Funny, isn’t it? Here’s the current member list of the W3C. A company membership is a whopping 68.5 grand/year. Adobe is there. Apple, Microsoft. And, more important, a lot of folks who really care about standards at various universities. Oddly enough; I don’t find Wolfram there. Must be a glitch.

To conclude my thought:

STOP investing in proprietary standards like PDF (and others like CDF). Those formats slow down the open exchange of information on a global basis.

START supporting the W3C and its affiliated organizations in order to speed up the development of standards that care about the needs of the users – not those of some software companies. Software companies should develop great software that makes it easier for people to learn and push humankind forward by delivering products that are so easy to use that even a non-techie can develop an idea into a product. That’s what software companies should be paid for. NOT for crippling communication, leaving out those who cannot afford licensed stuff. Because that will backfire one day.

Notice China, India, Africa lately?

If not, better start right now … take a look at what they need. Or die monetarizing "your" format.