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At 03:43 PM 7/6/2002 -0400, Thomas B. Passin wrote:
>I'd like to suggest a different take on why there may have been such a hue
>and cry about XQuery/Xpath2/XML Schema. I think it has a lot of explanatory
>power. See what you all think.
>Up until recently, most experienced XML practitioners probably felt that
>they could write any part of the XML processing chain themselves if they had
>to or wanted to. Anyone could write a parser (I'm not necessarily talking
>fact here, but perception), and most people probably though they could write
>an XPath processor if put to it. XSLT would be harder, but still one or a
>small group could picture themselves doing it. We have Saxon from Mike Kay,
>for example, and 4xslt from Uche's gang.
>Going along with this, if you needed, say, XPath for Ruby or Curl, you could
>imagine writing it if no one else got around to doing it. In this lies a
>great sense of freedom. You could do it yourself, and especially you could
>do it without needing the products of big companies.
I don't think this is a complete answer, but I think it accounts for much
of why XML was initially popular. The relative simplicity of the specs
meant that there was a lovely burst of parsers early on, and that
developers could do some very creative things in their own work.
(For instance, Microsoft's hyping of XML helped people hear about it, but
when they found that the early MS parsers didn't work very well, there were
lots of alternatives.)
>Now comes XML Schema. This does not look like a one-person project (Yes, I
>know, XSV - I said it was about perception). This is a big deal, if you
>could even understand the Rec well enough. And to most people it probably
>does not seem like an interesting job, either. To mix XML Schema into XPath
>for XPath2 also seems like a great burden. XQuery seems too much to tackle,
>too. SOAP toolkits - they are coming out of much bigger efforts.
>If this is close to the mark, the resentment and fear comes from a perceived
>withdrawal of the previous freedom. Any unclear or complex feature of, say,
>XML Schema, will tend to trigger the reaction. So no amount of explanation
>about any one issue can settle anything, which seems to be what we are
>seeing here. The threads just keep circling around and repeating the same
That's a reasonable explanation of the fear and loathing that the W3C XML
Schema specification and its relatives generate in those of us without the
resources to deal with it as easily as we have dealt with XML 1.0.
>Now personally, I do not see myself creating another RELAX NG validator.
>But the next best thing to actually being able to build something is for it
>to seem so clear and simple as to be quite understandable. So we keep
>hearing how simple and elegant RELAX NG is. XML Schema can never be
>anywhere near as understandable. If we can keep XPath2 simple - keep the
>@#$@! PSVI out - we can still feel like we can do it ourselves if we have
>I am not suggesting that there are no technical or architecture issues that
>influence the discussion. I am suggesting that there are hidden aspects to
>the debate, and theat they are fairly powerful.
I think you're completely right about the "hidden aspects", though I don't
know that they're particularly well-hidden. There are some architectural
issues which reinforce those aspects, and I feel quite comfortable in
arguing that XML's basic structures, taken seriously, are simple enough to
protect us from the complexity trap into which developers with more
resources seem to be marching.
Unfortunately, those same developers appear to be in control of "what XML
is" at the W3C, and they seem intent on changing XML's foundations. I'm
talking more and more and "markup" lately as the XML project seems to have
completely lost track of the goals which made XML 1.0 work. Ignoring the
W3C work is possible for small projects, but unfortunately the W3C work
contaminates developer perceptions and makes it very difficult to get the
original message of simple labeled structures holding content out to a
It's a tough place to be. In my work as a developer writing my own
projects I can ignore the so-called features the W3C is piling in, but in
my work as a communicator and occasional developer on projects whose
destiny I don't control, I feel utterly trapped by a grotesquely
over-complicated system that was once both simpler and more useful. It
does make me howl, yes.
"Every day in every way I'm getting better and better." - Emile Coue