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   RE: XML complexity, namespaces

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  • From: "Didier PH Martin" <martind@netfolder.com>
  • To: "'XML Dev'" <xml-dev@ic.ac.uk>, "Richard L. Goerwitz" <richard@goon.stg.brown.edu>
  • Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999 11:27:03 -0500

HI Richard,

XML has only been around a short while.  It's not a fair comparison.

By way of contrast, SGML has been around a long time.  If there's not
a lot of good software out there for it by now, I don't think I'm being
unreasonable in claiming that it's, at least in part, because SGML is
a mess.

Why are you saying that? Why do you say that there is only bad SGML
software? Did you got a bad experience with a SGML software vendor and now
the whole pound is a mess? :-)

Re your CS friends who belittled SGML:  If it was the concept of des-
criptive markup that they belittled, then they were just silly.  And
I think most of them would admit that now.  But if it was the formal
properties of SGML, specifically DTDs, that they were belittling, then
there's very little question that they had a point.

Now re James Clark:  SGML defenders typically hold up his amazing work
as evidence that SGML is easy to process, and quite elegant.  Within a
rather restricted domain, that's true.  But it's really not fair to use
JC as prima facie evidence of elegance or simplicity.  He's worked long
and hard, and he's done some work that's frankly amazed the rest of us -
and the industry.

In a sense, though, all of this is moot.  Your comments seem aimed at
refuting an argument I never made.  I am not saying that you couldn't
get work done with SGML.  I'm not even saying that, for its time, it
wasn't a tremendous advance.  I'm just saying what should be obvious to
any impartial observer:  That it could stand a lot of improvement, and
that we now have a chance to make the improving easy on ourselves by
making a clean break, on the XML schema issue, with SGML.

OK fair comment, but don't sell the bear's fur before killing it. Let's
first see how brilliant the new stuff is before claming victory over the
darkness of prehistoric times :-)

As soon as possible, the W3C should make known its intentions.  The worst
possible outcome here would be for them to push DTDs and all the junk that
goes with them to make them useful (architectures, etc.) - only to replace
the whole mechanism by recommending a new or alternate schema setup later

If we're going to get another schema setup, then let's just live with DTDs
as they are for now.  Skip architectures.  Then let's move on to the new
schema mechanism when it's ready.

Until then, we can live with the namespace debacle.

W3 is facing a hard problem and the funniest part is that is was the problem
SGML faced too :-). My own conclusion: as we know this is work in progress.
Actual match score:

name spaces: do not really solve document structure validation - just a way
to reduce the probabily of name collision. score: D
XML: yes the job is now a lot easier for parser and a document could be
parsed even in the absence of a DTD. Score: A
Schema: lost in the limbes tacit knowledge stored in workgroup members :-)
Score: No score

Conclusion: too early to say if XML is _really_ better than SGML. If only we
could combine the good points of property sets and the intent of DTD but
what kind of control do we have on this specification process except burn
some candles and pray that they'll do the best :-))))

Didier PH Martin

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