Dan Geer writes:
No more: "Somebody upgraded, so now everyone has to." By making the "public" in "public record" mean something, Massachusetts gets better accessibility, plus competition--not a sole-source provider.
Perspective: Massachusetts assaults monoculture By Daniel Geer c|net news.com Published: November 29, 2005, 4:00 AM PST
Mass. is requiring state documents to be in an open format (OpenDocument) reaadily accessible via multiple vendors' word processing software, not to mention by OpenOffice, an open source office suite.
Their rationale is simple: gaining access to public documents shouldn't require the public to buy a single vendor's product and thereby misuse a public good to support a private monopoly. By requiriing public documents to be in a non-monopoly format, Mass. helps obviate software monoculture.
As discussed in previous blog posts, monoculture is bad because a single bug can wipe out a monoculture crop, as happened with the beetle-like insect boll weevil and cotton in the U.S. in the early 1900s, or with the aphid-like insect phylloxera vastatrix and European winestock in the late 1800s, or the Irish potato famine.
The problem of monoculture is equally evident in software used on the Internet, as discussed in another previous blog entry, to the tune of perhaps $100 billion in economic losses for a single incident. Software diversity is the beginning of a solution to this monoculture problem. A software worm is far less likely to take down several software platforms at once than it is to take down many installations of a single software platform.
Kudos to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for doing the right thing.