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- From: "Rick Jelliffe" <email@example.com>
- To: "Simon St.Laurent" <SimonStL@classic.msn.com>, "Xml-Dev (E-mail)" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Wed, 26 Nov 1997 22:33:33 +1100
> From: Simon St.Laurent <SimonStL@classic.msn.com>
> I think we would do well to remember that XML is NOT SGML and should not be
> allowed to fall prey to the incredible number of 'options' that have made SGML
> worthless to a large number of developers.
The current XML draft says "(XML) is an extremely simple dialect of SGML."
That is the first sentence of the abstract. I was a member of the SIG from
quite early on, and it has always been the official line.
So XML says it is SGML. Furthermore, the recent correction to SGML (WebSGML), which
is in its next-to-final draft before release (it has already been voted)
means that there should be no doubt that the national standards bodies
involved with ISO want SGML to be XML-accepting too. I have attended ISO
meetings on this, and the ISO people certainly do not see XML as something
independent of SGML either.
The optional features of SGML have not made it worthless to developers.
The complexity of unadorned SGML and the generality of its toolkit approach
is the thing that made it dificult. The very thing that makes you rich makes
XML (and the companion change to the SGML standard) have reduced this
base level. It is pure blue-sky to think that one syntax can meet everyone's
need. I am not saying there should be options in XML. I am saying if
someone wants more than XML, there are many things in SGML that are useful,
and if Microsoft want to implement them, good for Microsoft.
Of course, these should not be termed "experimental XML" features. They
should be labelled "non-XML SGML" features. I already said words to that
> Fine. Let's start off suboptimal and get a standard that works instead of a
> standard that can be embraced and extended by any software company that thinks
> it has a new grand idea.
Am I saying anything other? XML was developed as the technology of choice for
delivering SGML on the Web. I support that 100%. But if a company wants
to use something more powerful at their back-end, why shouldn't they use
a more powerful language nearer SGML if that serves their inhouse needs
better. And why shouldnt Microsoft allow this in their parser?
Any tools just need to have a checkbox marked "XML only" to keep things
obvious. And XML has draconian error correcting, so data with more than
XML will not work over the web anyway!
> Keep XML as clean as possible, at least for now. Forget everything you knew
> about SGML's intricacies and focus on what XML, not SGML, can do for the
> world, and with any luck, the world might take XML sersiously.
The spanner is that many of SGML intricacies are responses to real problems.
For example, XML (and WebSGML) let you pass all whitespace to the application,
which means the application itself must be more complicated since there is
no standard way to cover the problem of what to do if your editor has a fixed
line length and you need to stick in an element that would cause a wrap, but
you do not want to put in a newline in the data.
XML development has been an exhaustive analysis of every part of mainstream
SGML. And I think almost everyone on the SIG would agree that there are
good reasons for almost all the non-intuitive parts of SGML. However, the
need to be straightforward (the #1 goal of XML) means that there is
a different cost/benefit trade-off for deciding what should go into the
base language (compared to SGML in the early 1980s).
The English-using world already runs on SGML. Computer chips, air
transport, legal systems, the military, many stock markets,
much print media, diagnostics of office equiement, and (with HTML 4.0)
WWW. Any claim that SGML is not good for what it has tried to do
are wrong, as far as the market has spoken.
> The target of my post, which apparently lacked 'grace and courtesy' was not
> Microsoft - it was the SGML folks who clamor for every piece of junk that's
> littered the SGML spec to be included in XML.
Do you have access to the deliberations of the XML SIG or WG? If you do not,
you have no way of knowing what "SGML people" clamoured for, and if you do
then you are just wrong.
The minimal SGMLs that were proposed (by "SGML people" since there were no others)
at the start were all substantially smaller than what we have now in XML.
In fact, XML has grown largely because we found there was so much of SGML that
was needed. Only this week there are last minute calls (from "SGML people",
who Simon deems himself to be so different from) to make several quite
important simplifications to XML.
And, in any case, the distinction between SGML and XML people is entirely
spurious. If you use XML, you are an SGML person. You have bought into
the idea of using a human readable Language, of adding Markup to character
data, of markup up Generalized elements rather than a fixed low level tagset,
and you think it is good to have a common Standard. The fact that you
find ISO 8879 baffling and horrible does not make you anti-SGML, an more
than the fact that I cannot read my video recorder manual make me anti-TV.
SGML is not the enemy. The enemy is poorly described data that is no use,
and systems that are inappropriately complicated (or simple) for their
user requirements. SGML is merely a toolkit for constructing markup
languages, which includes a lot of features that are not relevant
to delivering structured data over the Web.
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