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   Re: Why do we write standards?

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  • From: "Steven R. Newcomb" <srn@techno.com>
  • To: xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
  • Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1999 12:39:50 -0600

> From: Bill dehOra <Wdehora@cromwellmedia.co.uk>

> I worry about XML, when I see 'added extras' like metadata,
> namespaces, XSL, CSS, XLink crawling out of the woodwork. Not that
> the goal of these standards isn't desirable. But they serve to make
> XML complicated and difficult to implement.

Hear, hear.  

The problem isn't that, for example, there is an XML Namespaces
Recommendation.  As I see it, the problem is that many of these kinds
of things are being done with the idea that they are somehow going to
require support from all XML implementations, thus making XML a bigger
and bigger monolith, more and more self-contradictory and redundant,
and harder and harder to understand and implement in any given

For example, with the best of intentions, the XML InfoSet
Recommendation could regard XML itself as having non-optional
properties that *must* exhibit values when Namespaces are used.  But
it would be much better (more parsimonious, more modular, less obese)
to make support for such properties optional, so that, for example,
all XML implementations are not required to recognize colonized names
as namespace references.  The difference is all in whether we view
Namespaces as *an intrinsic aspect of XML* (bad), or whether we view
Namespaces as *a particular technique for using XML* (good).

Bill dehOra's note reminded me of some words that I heard on the
occasion of the death of a certain monolithic standard that died of

  "In attempting to make the standard as useful as possible for every
  purpose, we made it so big and complex that nobody could use it for
  any purpose."

  "This standard absorbed all available resources, grew bigger and
  bigger, and provided no benefit to anyone.  This standard was a
  cancer, it had to die, and we're better off now that it's dead."

XML can be saved from obesity.  After all, SGML never succumbed.  Of
course, SGML has Charles Goldfarb to defend it against creeping scope.
And he does defend it very staunchly indeed, and maintaining that
defense has occasionally been costly.  

(I'm trying to think who defends XML from creeping scope.  I should
know the answer to that question, but I don't.)


Steven R. Newcomb, President, TechnoTeacher, Inc.
srn@techno.com  http://www.techno.com  ftp.techno.com

voice: +1 972 517 7954  <<-- new phone number
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