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   Re: Call for unifying and clarifying XML 1.0, DOM, XPATH, and XML Infos

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  • From: Lars Marius Garshol <larsga@garshol.priv.no>
  • To: xml-dev@ic.ac.uk
  • Date: 28 Jan 2000 15:52:18 +0100

* Norman Gray
| When I read the auxiliary XML specs (DOM, InfoSet, XLink,...), my
| first thought was `why are they creating a complicated version of
| HyTime?'.

You are not the only one to react that way, although a case could be
made for the DOM being slightly more than just a new version of
|     (a) Simple is not the same as easy.  The flip-side of the
|     Simplicity is that the standard is somewhat abstract (ahem!)
|     and, like all grand projects, has its own universe of concepts.

To me it seems that there has been an ISO culture and that the meeting
of the W3C and the ISO has been something of a cultural collision,
where much confusion has been caused by the sides taking different
approaches to slightly different problems and using wildly different

The SGML standards family has an impressive glossary of well-defined
terms, but it often seems that this has been as much of a disadvantage
as an advantage, and it certainly has put people off.

|     In other words, the standard does not give the impression, up
|     front, that the effort of understanding it will be repaid.  This
|     is a pity.

|     (b) Separately from that, I felt that the standard was rather
|     confusingly written; I strongly suspect, however, that this was
|     because of the constraints of writing according to the ISO format.
|     My impression was that there were at least _four_ standards here,
|     which were linked but independent.  Having all four in the one
|     document produces an indigestibly rich pudding.

This is perhaps better left for others to respond to, but this is also
my impression. 

| It would appear that once you have absorbed 10744, the XML auxiliary
| specs could be defined _extremely_ compactly in terms of the
| concepts of 10744 (the InfoSet would be just a property set, the DOM
| just a grove plan, XLink a set of HyTime options, and so on).

While this is true, one has to ask the question of what would happen
if the W3C did this. Imagine if you had to understand ISO 10744 to be
able to approach the XML recommendations at all. Where would XML be
today marketing-wise if this were the case?

Of course, it might have gotten much further technology-wise, but of
what use would that be?

| In this spirit, James Clark's `Comparison of SGML and XML' document
| is essentially a definition of XML = SGML + the XML declaration +
| three pages of commentary, and makes the 30-page XML Recommendation
| look bloated.
This is perhaps an even better example. The XML recommendation is 30
pages, while this spec would effectively be 10 pages plus the entire
ISO 8879 standard...

| What appears to be happening now is that HyTime is being reinvented
| piecemeal -- in the auxiliary specs -- which is bad for just the
| reasons Nils mentioned: specs seem to contradict each other, act on
| different information sets, require a forest of new terminology and
| concepts which may or may not be isomorphic to each other.

I agree to some extent, and I think one way to handle this would be to
do a scaled-down version of property sets for the XML specifications
and then build things on that. This means that most of the difficult
stuff would have to go (grove plans, for example) and the terminology
might have to be simplified, but the simple essence could be kept.

Whether this is possible at this stage is another matter.

--Lars M.

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