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To understand some of it, look at the lists of the
decision makers and discover how many of them:
1. Were actually involved in creating a markup-based
hypertext browser (only a handful).
2. Were experienced with a hypertext browser, markup
or not, before HTML (a goodly number. IADS, EBT,
etc. had been around awhile and SoftQuad had already
licensed a browser). BTW: independent links (ilinks) what
you now call out-of-line links, had
been implemented for at least two of these systems
and what you now call simple links but were
then context links (clinks), for more.
3. Were actively creating formatting engines based
on DSSSL (say James with Bosak fronting)
4. Were actively creating engines for relational databases
(say Tim, maybe others).
5. Knew HTTP like Genesis chapter one ("In the beginning").
A small minority. The majority of SGMLers were not network
experts and the real breakthroughs that led to
the web were network designs for HTTP, not markup. The
Web is HTTP. Markup is an afterthought. PDF proved it
not to be necessary.
Everyone that I remember working the project understood
HTML. HTML is a no-brainer. That is why it works so
well for those who need that sort of thing and why it
will never die because there is an endless and ever
renewing supply of web newbies. It ain't a crime;
it is the birthrate at work.
SGML would have worked ok but we still would have
tossed out features and done away with subdocs. All
of the markup hypertext engines I was aware of had
simplified SGML already. DSSSL was way too
complicated and HyTime was too obscure and had enemies
from all camps. That is why the syntax spec got all
the momentum. It was SGML-- the bit everyone had
in common. That was the easy bit .
Even that took a lot of wrangling because agendas
surfaced and some were implacable (the one that kept
me up nights was 'Kill all the DTDs').
What you have been lamenting ever since is the
common web framework design. It can't go forward
fast because of HTML. The
model is set, the software has shipped, the
mindsets have gelled, and the kudzu has infested.
Things will improve but ever so slowly because if
you've ever farmed over kudzu, you know it can only
be killed an acre or so at a time over several
seasons if you don't want to also poison the ground.
Because of HTML, we have essentially a one client
world and most of what XML does well, works on
the client. The backend is middle-ware mediated
adaptors to what are mostly relational db servers.
So the action is in the access layer and the client.
The client is frozen in the "won't give up HTML
until they pry it from our dead cold fingers",
so that leaves the access layer.