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   Re: Open Standards Processes

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  • From: Tim Bray <tbray@textuality.com>
  • To: xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
  • Date: Sat, 25 Apr 1998 12:37:41 -0700

1. The supposition that the XML process was in any material way less
open than the SGML process is simply wrong.  XML was aggressive about
seeking out invited experts to serve on the SIG mailing list, which
had very substantial influence on the shape of the spec.  In particular,
compare, in the XML process versus any other, the number of people and
organizations who were actively on top of the spec, really understood the 
issues, and provided serious input.  On that basis, XML's input head count 
is exceeded only by a few of the bigger IETF efforts.

2. The supposition that the HTML standardization process can be said,
in any meaningful sense, to have worked, is simply wrong.  Anybody who
says this obviously has not tried to implement code that processes 
what the marketplace perceives to be HTML.  This is defined not by any spec, 
but by a basis of functionality that was in Netscape 2, and an unholy mess 
of accretions, with only two companies really allowed to play.  I think a 
standard should be something that should serve as the basis for 
implementation.  XML is.  HTML isn't.  

3. It *is* the case that the W3C process is, by default, less open
than some others, in particular IETF.  The hypothesis is that in
web-space, where there are lots of $N*10^7 bets on the table and 
attack-trained marketing groups behind every bush, there are going to 
have to be some closed doors to get anything useful done.  I think
the jury's still out on that, and I'm not sure that XML, which made 
an aggressive effort to be more open than the W3C default, really 
serves as evidence either way.

4. A couple of people made the excellent point that it's tough to produce
a book on one of these specs in a timely and accurate fashion if you're
not inside the process.  It seems to me that it would be of huge benefit
for the W3C if such books were easier to produce.  It might make all sorts
of sense for the W3C to have "writers' memberships" - non-speaking access
to the materials of one activity or another.  Such memberships wouldn't
be free, a cost of perhaps $500 or so would bring it well within the bounds 
of a book-publishing budget while discouraging frivolity.

And once again, I regret that the XML process has failed to meet 
Len Bullard's exquisitely high standards. 

Cheers, Tim Bray
tbray@textuality.com http://www.textuality.com/ +1-604-708-9592

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