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The biggest problem with the W3C is the impression in industry that every XML technology must be either a W3C technology or blessed by it. The unfortunate side effect of this is that every W3C recommendation is treated as the ONE TRUE STANDARD (be it XML query, XML schema, XML protocols, etc) so every industry and academic interest group has to have a hand in creating what becomes a bloated, complex, special case ridden, internally and externally inconsistent standard which is then foisted upon the industry.
The few working groups I have been in direct or indirect contact with have shown me the error of expecting any sort of "grand unified vision" from the W3C. Even at the working group level there are too many contradictory constituencies and interests to create a unified vision for individual XML technologies let alone for all of XML or the World Wide Web.
The real question is not whether the W3C is losing the plot but whether the W3C ever had the plot to begin with.
From: AndrewWatt2000@aol.com [mailto:AndrewWatt2000@aol.com]
Sent: Fri 8/30/2002 12:11 PM
Subject: [xml-dev] Is W3C Losing the Plot?
If you opened this post expecting some virulent diatribe against W3C you will
likely be disappointed. What I think I am trying to articulate is much more
in the nature of a vague uneasiness ... a recurrent finding of frayed edges
and attempting to analyse why so many frayed edges seem to be around at the
moment. ... And perhaps for my own forward planning an initial attempt to
diagnose how serious or mild, how temporary or enduring these frayed edges
In keeping with this list's focus and several of my own interests this post
relates primarily to W3C's XML Activity (in the broadest sense).
I guess the immediate stimulus to making this post is having spent the best
part of the last two days battling through the latest XForms WD and finding
basic error after basic error. Typo after typo. And, what seem to me at
least, to be some substantive likely design errors. I know that many of the
people in the XForms WG are far from stupid so why wasn't the WD in better
How much of the problem is caused by people pulling out of the WG as firms
"right size" or disappear? Or, more subtly, as firms are under more financial
pressure in a downturn is the time of WG members for non-core activities (as
their employers see it) being squeezed? They are there in spirit but less
often "in body"? Or maybe the spirit is willing but the schedule is weak? :)
If WG members are not going to do the bulk of tidying of specifications then
who will (generally speaking) have the time to do it? If that tedious task
isn't done are we likely to see more specifications which are visibly flakey?
Having specifications with lengthy Errata pages is good for nobody.
Maybe the problem (specifically for XForms and more generally) is due to the
sheer difficulty of keeping up with the volume of specifications coming from
W3C in the last year or two. ... XForms in particular has a large number of
interactions with other specifications ... I know how much time I invest in
trying to keep up. I don't expect it to be any easier for WG members.
Maybe Parkinson's Law (have I got the right one?) is kicking in. Maybe the
W3C has risen to the level of its own incompetence?
Could that be a good thing?
If W3C slows down a bit that is maybe a good thing since it would give the
developer community (broadly speaking) time to catch up.
Of course ideally the number of specifications should go down and the quality
But such a precisely focussed range of activity presupposes a coherent
strategy. Here again frayed edges emerge. Or do I mean turf wars? Does the
W3C have a coherent overarching strategy? I wonder. How, for example, is XML
to be linked? XLink or anti-XLink? :) ... I could go on.
When I go searching for the background to some (to me) odd design decisions
in the XForms WD there seems (at least to my eyes) to be pretty obvious
specification drift. So how did that come about? Partly, I suspect, because
of the lack of explicit use cases in the original Requirements document. A
failure in procedure? Or just another "frayed edge"?
But is the seeming XForms drift part of a more general XML drift? I suspect
it is. But is it "drift" or sensible adaptation?
The lack of clear use cases for XForms seems to me to feed through into lack
of clarity in where XForms is going. But then, perhaps more importantly,
where is XML at the W3C going? Is W3C rowing back from "generic XML" on the
Web to a more conservative (more flat earth??) position of spinning out the
durability of HTML/XHTML for as long as possible?
But what of strategic planning? The XLink WG is chartered to December 2002
(only 3 or 4 months away). What then? An eloquent ... and worrying? ...
And the XForms WG ... according to the latest public document I could find
... the charter for the XForms WG seems to expire at the end of September
2002. Is that another factor in why a sub-standard WD almost sneaked through
to Candidate Recommendation?
Maybe all this stuff is in hand at W3C but more public indication of longer
term coherent strategic planning would provide some reassurance.
I could go on ... but it is Friday evening here (in the UK). Maybe I should
go and do something entirely different and it will all look better on Monday
But somehow I think there is more to this than just a feeling after a busy
What do you think?
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