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   Re: [xml-dev] Better is better

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On Wednesday 23 January 2002 10:37 am, Mark Baker wrote:
> All the investigation I've done says that the Web is exactly a
> subset of what it was intended to become. 

In terms of functionality, sure. 

I think in terms of design, absolutely not. What I've seen since the 
early 90's was a list of "just good enough"/naive semi-specs, followed 
by real-life experience, followed by later standardization, followed 
by kludges, followed by more standardization. HTTP/HTML *especially* 
fit this and show a very rough initial understanding of the overall 
application we now call the WWW. The one thing that was truly unique, 
was URI's, which in themselves, have a significant number of issues.

If anyone claims to have forseen all that is here now, anticipated the 
evolution, and designed based on that knowledge, let them say so, and 
let's test that assertion. I doubt it will be validated by historical 

> I think it's as simple as it can be given the other constraints it
> was working under. 

I think is was very simple in the beginning, and then evolved in a 
fairly convoluted manner afterward. Now we have a great deal of 
complication *because* the initial design was so simple. I think HTML 
is a perfect example. It was simple (based on an old GML DTD), but 
when first released, fairly useless. A little bit of forethought would 
have probably resulted in the use of a subset of SGML/GML, and simple 
stylesheets. The technology existed for that when the WWW first came 
out, and scripted links also. HTML and DHTML might be very different, 
much simpler beasts had the lessons of others been taken into account 
in the initial design.

> > - Consistency:  it is better to drop those parts of the design
> > that deal with less common circumstances than to introduce either
> > implementational complexity or inconsistency.
> That's my understanding, but I wasn't a Web head until after most of
> those decisions were made.

These decisions were made with partial understanding at best. Making 
wise tradeoffs requires deep knowledge and forethought, both of which, 
I assure you, I have seen little evidence of.

> My objection is simply the name and the meaning that the name
> invokes, that it's somehow a good idea to be "worse", because
> sometimes "worse is better".  Considering the whole system when
> designing, rather than just part of it, can in no way be considered
> "worse".  I don't disagree with the conclusion of "worse is better",
> but I disagree with the unfortunate choice of wording.

I agree with your sentiment, but I do *not* think you can apply it to 
the WWW. Making the "worse is better" call implies a level of wisdom 
and knowledge that I am sure did not exist for the WWW. In fact, I 
think I was the first person to claim we should treat tthe WWW as a 
single application.

The WWW succeeded because of URI's (glue), simplicity (quick inertia 
buildup) and network effects, not good design per se. From my 
perspective, it was Mosaic that *really* caused it all to take off. 
That application brought people to the internet that would never have 
come otherwise, thereby generating the network effects. 


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