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   Regulating the XML Marketplace

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  • From: <david@megginson.com>
  • To: "XML Developers' List" <xml-dev@ic.ac.uk>
  • Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1999 09:42:24 -0500 (EST)

Simon St.Laurent writes:

 [about the highly secretive, smoke-filled XML Coordination group, aka
  The Syndicate]

 > I'd love to see a set of goals from the higher level group like the
 > working groups below it have so successfully produced.  Right now,
 > the emperor himself is pretty invisible to the outside world.
 > There's no broad statement of what the XML family of standards
 > should look like when it reaches maturity (or puberty, even.)  I
 > think everyone on this list has their own, usually incompatible,
 > vision of what XML should look like.  A statement of what it will
 > look like might give us something better to work with, introducing
 > less complication in the long run.

Actually, the problem is a little different.  We all know what XML
looks like -- it's described pretty clearly (modulo a few errata) in
the XML 1.0 spec [1].  What we're waiting to find out is what
applications that happen to use XML will look like.

Somewhere out there, there's a yet-to-be-discovered magic dividing
line between what the W3C should and shouldn't regulate -- clearly,
core XML 1.0 syntax falls on the W3C side of the dividing line, and
just as clearly, the source code for a specific XML parser falls on
the other side.

Beyond obvious cases, though, we have the classic problem of how to
regulate a market without killing it.  We could take the Old
Labour/New Deal approach and nationalise everything, we could take the
Margaret Thatcher approach and privatise everything, or we could try
to be Tony Blairs and please/disappoint everyone a little without
taking any firm positions.

Right now, the W3C has decided (either formally or haphazardly) that
the following are important enough, have general enough applicability,
and/or fall well enough into the W3C's area of expertise that they
should be regulated by the W3C itself (at least for now):

- XML syntax, data model, schemas, etc.
- standard linking and addressing facilities (XLink and XPointer)
- standard stylesheet languages (CSS and XSL)
- a standard XML format for metadata (RDF and specific initiatives 
  built on top of it)
- a standard XML format for browsers (HTML)
- a standard tree-based API for use in browsers (DOM)

On the other hand, the W3C has decided (either formally or
haphazardly) that the following are not important enough, not general
enough, or fall far enough outside of the W3C's area of expertise,
that they should not be regulated by the W3C (at least not yet):

- a standard event-based API (SAX)
- specific XML document types for technical and academic documents
  (TEI, DocBook, etc.)
- a standard XML format for e-commerce
- a standard XML format for EDI
- a standard XML format for database tables
- a standard XML format for object serialisation

For everything else, the W3C's first job is to decide where the line
should be drawn, or, in other words, how much regulation is enough and
how much is too much.  In fact, the problem is probably unsolvable,
but the discussion itself can be helpful

All the best,


David Megginson                 david@megginson.com

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