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   NAMESPACES: expressing commonality or distinction

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  • From: David Megginson <david@megginson.com>
  • To: "XML-Dev Mailing list" <xml-dev@ic.ac.uk>
  • Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 06:28:25 -0400 (EDT)

James Tauber writes:

 > I imagine that most people would agree that:
 > 1. There is a difference between strict:p and transitional:p
 > 2. The difference is small and most applications will not care
 >    about it

And for those that do, an 'html:version' attribute would be quite
sufficient -- applications could ignore it easily if they didn't need
it, but would have all of the required versioning information if they

 > 3. Most applications *will* care about the commonality
 > But the fact of the matter is that it is application-specific. 

Yes, but who cares?

Writing standards is about interoperability, not theoretical
completeness.  Proper standard writing requires fierce cost-benefit
analysis: the proper question is "what will bring the most good to the
most users with the simplest spec", not "how much can fit into this
spec in case someone wants it some day".

One problem is that ISO and the W3C are both doing standardization
backwards these days -- the idea of standardization is traditionally
to align current practice (we all have railroads, so let's use the
same rail gauge), not to invent new practice (hey, maybe someone will
invent railroads in fifty years -- let's standardize the gauge for all
four rails that we think they might need, and the width of the brick
path for the horse in the middle while we're at it [at which point a
long debate ensues about whether horses or donkeys will pull trains]).

Once we start standardizing things that don't exist yet, we're really
wasting everyone's time -- after all, spec writers like me aren't
smart enough for that sort of thing.

For example, take SAX 1.0 -- when we developed it, nearly every XML or
SGML parser had it's own, slightly-different event-based API.  SAX
didn't really innovate or add new kinds of functionality -- it just
pulled all of those together so that parsers could benefit from the
network effect.  

Likewise, people were already using SGML (on the one hand) and
extending HTML (on the other), and most of us in the SGML community
had agreed that we could jettison some of the stuff in ISO 8879 so
there was a proven need for XML.

All the best,


David Megginson                 david@megginson.com

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