Introduction to Document Freedom Day

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This year on March 31, along with more than 200 groups in 60 countries, we will observe the third Document Freedom Day. This grassroots effort aims to educate the public about the importance of open formats and open standards.

We've entered a time in which we store far more digitally than we do on paper. Our descendants will have to seek their history--government records, birth and death certificates, financial and property transactions--through the previous generation's digital formats.

It's not hard to put yourself in their shoes. Just think of all the things you've lost or had to convert or replace because of obsolete formats. Your 8-track and laserdisc collections. The 8 mm home movies. Every document you wrote in the late '90s, stored on Zip disks.

But what if you couldn't just call a conversion service? What happens when a file format is no longer supported by the company that owned it? Document freedom is vital to our future by ensuring that:

  • Everything we create today is still available tomorrow.
  • We're able to freely collaborate with others, regardless of their software.
  • We can interact with our governments, and that they can interact with each other.

We've already begun talking about Document Freedom Day on, and we'll continue to do so over the next week. In the meantime, why don't you find your way to participate? Getting involved can be as simple as a tweet with the #dfd2010 hashtag to spread the word.

Ruth Suehle is the community leadership manager for Red Hat's Open Source and Standards team. She's co-author of Raspberry Pi Hacks (O'Reilly, December 2013) and a senior editor at GeekMom, a site for those who find their joy in both geekery and parenting.


Isn't there value in the sense of the times? I mean really, 8 tracks had their day, I'm not sure I want to make them live on. CD's will have there day until the next technology comes along. What's the big deal?

This isn't about saving outdated technology till the ends of time. Its about having open file formats that can easily be opened in the future. Proprietary companies come and go but if you have no access to the source code you may not be able to open that important file/record in the future. Take Microsoft Publisher 1997 data files for instance. The latest version won't even open its own formats from the past!

I hope someday its not gonna be merely a document freedom day but an essential part of everyday life

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