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   Re: Java Specification Request for XML

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  • From: "Simon St.Laurent" <simonstl@simonstl.com>
  • To: David Brownell <db@Eng.Sun.COM>, xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
  • Date: Wed, 03 Mar 1999 17:25:32 -0500

At 12:42 PM 3/3/99 -0800, David Brownell wrote:
>There seems to have been some confusion regarding what Sun is trying
>to do with its Java Specification Request for an XML Extension to the
>Java Platform.
>The Java Community Process is an open, inclusive process and we
>look forward to the active particpation of all interested parties.
>[...detailed list of process steps, excerpted..]
>[4] The expert group writes a first draft of the specification
>[5] The draft is circulated to all Java technology licensees and
>    Participants in the Java Community Process.
>[7] The refined specification is then released to the public for
>    comment.
>The key point is that everyone with internet access will get a
>chance to review and comment on the emerging specification.
>Note that the xml-dev community has already had input into the
>proposed specification as evidenced by the referencing of the
>SAX specification in the JSR as one of the starting documents.
>Other specifications could be adopted by the expert group.
>We look forward to the continued participation of the xml-dev
>community in this work.

This all sounds good, but I remain concerned (and wary) for a number of
reasons, and I didn't respond directly to your JSR commenting process
because I'm very uncertain about whether this development belongs in a
process controlled, however lightly, by a particular vendor.

The JCP is only a partially open process, as the sequence of steps above -
in which Java technology licensees and 'Participants in the Java Community
Process' is step 5 and the public is step 7 - demonstrates.  It seems that
the licensees and 'official' participants are still privileged, have
earlier access to the information, and potentially more impact on its
shape.  I don't expect to be one of the experts crafting the standard, but
I hope to able to participate in the discussions as a real participant and
not just another spectator.

Given that SAX was developed (and is still developing) in a very open
forum, it seems like the JCP is moving into an area that was totally open
and moving it to an arena that is _less_ open.  There have been a lot of
criticisms of W3C process on this list, as I'm sure you've noticed, for
similar openness problems.  While the W3C does in some way respond to
public comments, there's no transparency - we have no way to know how much
they care.

I'd like to hear Sun make some _strong_ statements that they'll be
developing this API in a way more like the SAX process than the DOM
process, and that genuine transparency is the goal of the JCP rather than
Sun protecting what it sees as its interests in the Java/XML space.  I
think Sun could make a great contribution here, using its weight in the
Java community to help standardize XML processing and make it more
universally used, but I hope Sun isn't planning to use that weight to
direct the discussion and influence the final decisions unduly.

It's promising, but I think there are a lot of folks out here who are very
wary.  (See Elliotte Rusty Harold's comments at http://metalab.unc.edu/xml
for an example.)  I'm definitely wary, though I also have some real hopes.

Simon St.Laurent
XML: A Primer / Building XML Applications (April)
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