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   Re: It's time for practical XML!

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  • From: <david@megginson.com>
  • To: "XML Developers' List" <xml-dev@ic.ac.uk>
  • Date: Sat, 3 Oct 1998 15:21:38 -0400 (EDT)

Richard L. Goerwitz III writes:

 > Worse yet, it is becoming clearer that the initial goals set out
 > in the XML 1.0 spec are falling by the wayside.  This can't help
 > but give the rest of us a profound sense of uncertainty.  Some
 > random observations along these lines:
 >   3) XML shall be compatible with SGML
 >      (the entire schema mechanism is being debated, and name-
 >       spaces, despite protests to the contrary, weaken and com-
 >       plicate use of DTDs)

The problem is that "SGML" != "ISO 8879:1986" -- there's new stuff,
like WebSGML, that will probably never be implemented by itself but
that provides XML with the ability to call itself "SGML-conformant."
In other words, XML's claim to SGML compatibility is pretty
meaningless anyway.

 >   4) It shall be easy to write programs which process XML documents
 >      (with every new spec, this prospect becomes more remote)

That's not really fair -- none of the new specs modifies XML 1.0, any
more than HyTime, DSSSL, etc. modified ISO 8879:1986.  Ignore them if
you don't need them, and some (most?) will die out from attrition.

 >   8) The design of XML shall be formal and concise
 >      (ditto)

XML is in the same position that Java was in a couple of years ago:
we're trying to decide how much should be let into the core, and how
much should be kept outside.  As of right now, nothing has officially
been added to the XML core, so everything since XML 1.0 is outside
(we've done much better than Java in this regard).

There are certainly demands to change this -- everyone has a pet
project that they would like to put in a future XML 1.1 or 2.0 core --
but the W3C has made no commitments even about creating an XML 1.1 or
2.0, much less adding anything to it.

Personally, I'd like the XML 1.1 or 2.0 spec, if there ever is one, to 
be at least 25% smaller than XML 1.0.

 >   10) Terseness in XML markup is of minimal importance
 >      (this position is reversed with namespace defaulting)

Since namespaces are not part of the XML core, this design goal
technically does not apply to them; nevertheless, I agree with you in
disliking this feature of namespaces.

 > My guess is that if the standards bodies don't make any bonehead
 > moves, and if everyone will make stability and smooth transitions
 > into prime goals, that everything will turn out okay.  It will just
 > take longer than predicted.

The market as a whole is smarter than the individual people who
participate in it, and it is *much* smarter than the people who try to
direct it -- in the end, the market will politely ignore most of the
new XML-related specs coming out and will end up choosing the one or
two that it actually needs.  Even if/when the standards bodies do make 
bonehead moves, we'll probably be OK.

All the best,


David Megginson                 david@megginson.com

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