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   Re: SOAP, plague, love

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  • From: "W. E. Perry" <wperry@fiduciary.com>
  • To: Eldar Musayev <eldarm@microsoft.com>, xml-dev@xml.org
  • Date: Sat, 06 May 2000 12:07:21 -0400

Eldar Musayev wrote:

> I don't understand why we give so much attention to this article.


> Sorry, just see no big event in this article. It's just an entertainment for
> general public.

I am well aware that my opinions on this subject are neither orthodox nor
popular. Nevertheless, as in last week's threads on Napster
http://xml.org/archives/xml-dev/2000/04/0589.html , Bizcodes
http://xml.org/archives/xml-dev/2000/04/0786.html , and why XML is failing
http://xml.org/archives/xml-dev/2000/04/0676.html , the issues here (however
naively the journalist may understand them) address the unique and fundamental
nature of XML and of the Internet topology. When Don Box and Dave Winer insist
that XML messaging and XML RPC are ultimately indistinguishable, they ignore
the crucial question of 'from whose point of view?' As the sender, I may truly
believe that my RPC request is nothing but a message. As the recipient, I am
confronted with the expectation that I do something--that I perform some
process. That raises the question of 'what process?', and there is an absolute,
unbridgeable distinction between a process which I define and one which is
prescribed, suggested, or standardized for me.

In my unorthodox view, the specification of XML is a specification of syntax
alone. The processing of that syntax to derive some semantics is my (and every
node's) purely local and idiosyncratic affair. Philosophically, that is why
there is an XML (syntax) parser at every node, not simply one canonical service
implementation of The Parser. To the extent that I do anything unique as a
node, I am uniquely aware of what it is that I do, how I do it, and what data
is of interest to me in doing it. The syntax of XML is fashioned so that any
node may send me its unique data content in a unique instance structure
described by XML syntax. That node may not send me its unique (or received)
opinion of how I am to process that data, or of how I am to understand it
within my private context. Any such coercion, wherever it is characterized on
the spectrum from friendly understanding to command, depends upon shared,
agreed semantics which are inimical to the nature and the intent of XML. XML is
defined to be extensible by (and in the uniquely XML case of well-formed,
rather than valid syntax, only by) markup in the instance. My use of novel
markup, conformant to XML 1.0 syntax, need never require anyone's prior
agreement on canonical semantics to be derived from that markup. Indeed the
expectation--unique to XML--is that those semantics will be individually, and
quite probably differently, derived within the unique context of each consumer
of that document. A truculent, though perhaps appropriate, defense of this
unique value and power of XML might be to insist that those who want
previously-agreed, shared semantics ought to go elsewhere (HTML perhaps?), as
implicit semantics were designed out of XML in the beginning.

So, yes, Peter Coffee's article is valuable to this community, as last week's
'XML is failing' and Napster articles were valuable (and this week's Bill
Burnham column
http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/comment/0,5859,2562985,00.html) because they
illustrate for us all over again that the only clear and intellectually
rigorous path out of the muddled understanding of XML as it might be presented
in 'an entertainment for general public' is for us to maintain a clear
distinction between what is XML syntax and what are bogus semantic accretions
to it.


Walter Perry

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