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   Re: W3C, responsibility (Re: Why the Infoset?)

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  • From: Marcus Carr <mrc@allette.com.au>
  • To: xml-dev@xml.org
  • Date: Fri, 04 Aug 2000 17:36:46 +1000

"Winchel 'Todd' Vincent, III" wrote:

> Some of the W3C's big lies (bad behavior) follow:
> 1. XML is backwards compatible with SGML
> DTDs are no longer supported by the W3C, in favor of XML-Schemas.
> XML-Schemas are not backwards compatible with SGML.  So, as a practial
> matter, the statement "XML is compatible with SGML" really isn't true,
> although this was the W3C promise in 1998 and much of 1999.

DTDs often weren't directly supported by SGML software either - a proportionally
high number of applications required the DTD to be compiled into an
application-specific format. If my DTD was being rolled into a schema by an XML
application and it was all reasonably well hidden, I wouldn't be inordinately
offended. Also, it's easy to underestimate the depth of use of DTDs - they may
prove to be more trouble to kill than it's worth. I'd still use them for
documentation if nothing else - they're easy to create and interpret.

> 2. XML is nearly as powerful and a lot simpler than SGML
> This was the promise and the marketing hype.  We've all read the following .
> . . SGML has been around for a long time, but has always been too
> complicated for the masses.  HTML is very simple and, therefore, gained
> wide-spread acceptance among the masses.  XML, because it simplifies SGML,
> yet is technically superior to HTML, is the next step in the development of
> the web.

Sure, it was marketing hype and it used to annoy me no end until I realised that
was the case. I always maintained that you couldn't eliminate the complexity of
data by simplifying the syntax, but I (and numerous other SGML people) watched
in frustration as this mantra was taken up. In my own case, the frustration
turned to smugness as the complexity increased, then progressed to uncertainty
when I realised that maybe I'd had the wool pulled over my eyes. I now believe
that perhaps the pervailing sentiment when XML was started was that it was
important to get started, even if that meant dealing with things in a somewhat
ad hoc fashion. In a software design project, this would have been a shocking
approach, but under the circumstances, I believe that the end may justify the
means. The W3C may have some cases to answer, but I don't feel that not being
totally up front with us from the outset is one of them. We would still be
discussing how to put it all together if there wasn't a base to build on - the
fact that our options have been narrowed have expedited progress and allowed
real development to begin. One could rephrase that as "race in and code like a
fool", but I don't think that the progression of the market and applications
bears out that sentiment.


Marcus Carr                      email:  mrc@allette.com.au
Allette Systems (Australia)      www:   http://www.allette.com.au
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
       - Einstein


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