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   RE: Will XML change the character of W3C?

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  • From: David Megginson <david@megginson.com>
  • To: xml-dev@lists.xml.org
  • Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2000 14:57:43 -0400 (EDT)

[I've copied Tim so that he can correct me if needed.]

Sean McGrath writes:
 > At 06:08 AM 10/18/00 -0700, Sam Hunting wrote:
 > >And "but for" SGML, neither HTML nor XML would exist. If you won't
 > >learn your history as taught by people who were present at the
 > >creation, like Len Bullard, try reading the XML Spec -- the first line
 > >of the abstract reads "The Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a subset
 > >of SGML..."
 > Ah, but it ain't that simple by a long shot.
 > 1) HTML (according to TBL's book) was designed to "look like" SGML.
 > This is different from being SGML. (I no longer have the book handy
 > but I believe the "look like SGML" bit occurs somewhere around page
 > 40 or so. Anybody got a copy handy who can dig out a full reference?).

I agree.

I thought that HTML was most heavily influenced by LaTeX and *roff --
at least, it contains many of the same primitive objects.  HTML
happened to borrow SGML's delimiter syntax -- very superficially at
first -- but I considered SGML a pretty minor influence on HTML when I
saw my first HTML markup (i.e. "cute, it uses angle brackets too!",
not "hey, here's an SGML application").

The choice of angle bracket/tag delimiters for HTML was not a bad one,
since reverse solidus ("\") used heavily in the other delimiter
syntaxes doesn't work as well on non-English keyboards.  LISP would
have been an equally good choice

     (TITLE Sample Page))
     (H1 Sample Page)
     (P This is a paragraph.)))

We were doing document and data representation like this with LISP
well before SGML became a standard.  In fact, at the time, I probably
would have recommended LISP delimiters if the CERN people had asked me
(which they wouldn't have), because in 1989/90 LISP delimiter syntax
was familiar to far more people than SGML delimiter syntax, is much
easier to parse, and was supported natively by many structured
I remember a big fight to get the early HTML specs to claim SGML
conformance retroactively.  At the time, for some reason, getting HTML
into the SGML camp seemed terribly important to all of us on
comp.text.sgml -- we claimed to be trying to help the HTML people, but
in retrospect, we might have been fighting for our own relevance.

All the best,


David Megginson                 david@megginson.com


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