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   XLink - where are we? [tiny amount of frustration]

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  • From: Peter Murray-Rust <peter@ursus.demon.co.uk>
  • To: xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
  • Date: Tue, 10 Nov 1998 18:58:33

As moderator I try to keep neutral on the direction that the W3C takes, so
please excuse a smallish bit of frustration about the non-development and
non-use of XLink. If you think I'm out of line, I'll shut up.

At 23:42 09/11/98 -0500, Liam R. E. Quin wrote:
>I think the processing instruction is unfortunate: XLink should
>be used.  If XLink is not powerful enough to do this, fix it.
>If XLink is too complex to do something this simple, fix it.

I share this sentiment in general. I think XLink is one of the most
exciting things about the family of X*L. I think we are suffering too much
complexity, and foozle **simply because XLink STILL isn't ready**.

I have designed my DTDs (CML and VHG) with the idea that there will be a
linking mechanism similar to the current XLink. XLink (as XML-Link) was
first announced about 18 months ago as far as I remember and it was
certainly reasonable to expect that it would be in common use by now. The
fact that it is not and we have no indication of timescales has - I suspect
- disillusioned many people. I still keep the faith, but it's hard,
especially when there are virtually no engines even in prototype that we
can play with.

In passing I think that a serious drawback of the W3C's approach is that
there is no incentive for anyone to experiment in public view. *if* we had
been experimenting with XLink, namespaces and the rest then we would have a
lot more useful experience to go on by now. In fact I think innovation and
exploration in XML is suffering in comparison with the development of HTML. 

"Plan to throw the first one away - you will anyway" (Fred Brooks). I wish
there was more encouragement for the enthusiasts to develop the first one.

I acknowledge that this somewhat frustrating plea may spring from the fact
of my no longer having access to the W3C deliberations and - in retrospect
- I expend my sympathy to the brave souls on this list who have always been
in this position. It can look very bleak from the outside. The *perceived*
messages [i.e. the electronic body language] are:
	- it's not worth non-W3C members trying to get involved. [If we had taken
this view we wouldn't have SAX and we wouldn't have XSchema].
	- it's not worth minnows (like the Xschema group, me, etc.) trying to do
anything because MS/NS/XYZPQR/W3C are going to do it anyway. [Same comment
- the movement on XML-type, XML-data, etc. has been almost retrograde.] 
	- XML is only for companies and individuals shouldn't really be involved. 

>If XLink should be replaced by or (as I suspect) merged with RDF,
>fine, use RDF.  

This appals me. Is it true? likely? Because if so, Xlink will be (a)
delayed another year or so (b) end up as so complicated that it will be
unusable. I continue to hold that RDF is too complicated for most people
and will reduce rather than encourage the use of metadata a linking. [Look
how apparently simple namespaces are and how slow the development appears
to be other than to identify the vendor of the software - hardly a semantic

Having slightly flamed off, I would like the replies to be constructive -
not "what is wrong", but "can this be got moving again in practice"?. One
thing at least is that XML-DEV can move reasonably quickly.


Peter Murray-Rust, Director Virtual School of Molecular Sciences, domestic
net connection
VSMS http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/vsms, Virtual Hyperglossary

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