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June 13, 2003

The Benefits of SlideML and other open formats for media

In my last post, I noted the two major benefits of SlideML as described on the OSCOM SlideML website: total flexibility in display formats and technologies; and knowing that you'll always be able to read these files any number of years into the future, even after software, OS's, and other technology infrastructure have changed irrecognizably.  

I think this second benefit is of utmost importance.  Every technology choice we make has to potential to diminish our future options and put us on a path we didn't necessarily choose to be on.  Storing important information in proprietary, locked-down formats is simply silly.  Will I be able to read a Powerpoint 97 file in ten years?  How about RealVideo 6 file?  Word 2000?  Don't count on it.  But will I be able to read ASCII text?  MPEG video?  Certainly.  

The other related benefit is that anyone can read it today on any platform. Tools for searching, cataloging, browsing, etc can be created by anyone using any technology (including free, public technology).  It opens a whole new world of possibilities for sorting, finding, and delivering your content.  

Finally, I'm reminded of something funny Scott McNealy said in a talk he gave at the Harvard Conference on Internet and Society in 1998.  It boiled down to this: if I save a Word doc that contains only the letter 'a', it's 19,456 Bytes on disk.  If I save a Powerpoint file with just a 'a' in it, it's 8704 Bytes.  The PDF is 2,485 Bytes, but if I save it as text, it's 1Byte.  It's not particulary relevant  here, since XML formats are not exactly known for their parsimonious usage of disk space, but it's still an interesting take on file formats.  Text is simple, and only text is forever....(and XML is text!)
Posted by larryb at 07:35 AM [permanent link]
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