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   Re: facts, conclusions, and exhortations re XML (long)

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  • From: "Steven R. Newcomb" <srn@techno.com>
  • To: schen@falconwing.com
  • Date: Sun, 21 Nov 1999 11:38:15 -0600

[Sean Chen:]
> I believe the the implementation talked about here is XQL, a
> precursor to XPath.  Nowhere has Microsoft claimed to implement
> XPath yet, AFAIK.  In fact, according to Microsoft, they are
> refusing to implement XSLT or XPath until the final recommendation,
> which has only just happened this week.

> If this problem occurs, after these implementations come out, then
> we can complain =)

Your counsel is wise.  Especially after the court's very recent
finding that Microsoft is a monopoly that has abused its monopoly
power to the detriment of the public interest, we should watch and see
whether Microsoft will act to commoditize or de-commoditize the
interchange of knowledge.  (I know which way I'd bet, but I'd be
delighted to be wrong.)

> We must be careful with our facts.  The problem with XML is that the
> dust is just settling (or not, with XSchemas yet to be done) and
> there are a lot of experimental work out there that is still hanging
> around.

While the dust is still settling is when it's especially easy for
Microsoft to lock in the lion's share of the customers with products
whose functionality meets or exceeds the requirements that the
relevant standards (when they appear) are intended to fulfill.  So the
customer gets everything except the benefits of interchange with
non-Microsoft-based applications.  

Experimentation is fine and necessary, but it's not reasonable to
consider the commercial distribution of many millions of copies of
IE5, including all of the "experimental" and otherwise-proprietary
features of IE5, as an experiment in the same category with other
ongoing XML experimentation.  Consider how much valuable information
is now being encoded in a fashion that is only interpretable by IE5.
What is the aggregate net present value of that information?  Maybe
$0, and maybe a very large amount.  Considering the desperate rush of
increasingly complex businesses to get on the Web, and the lack of
credible competition in the browser market, I'd bet on a very large

As an XML developer and information management consultant, I urge
customers to calculate the value of their information, and, if the
information has significant value, to protect that value by simply
refusing to use nonstandard proprietary notational practices, thus
keeping their information serviceable by commoditized methodologies
and systems.  Making customers aware of these issues, and providing
them with fully-commoditized options, is what I call "using truth as a


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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