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   RE: [xml-dev] SGML on the Web

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Two questions...

1.) Why should anyone care about SGML on the Web? 

2.) Where do you get your statements about the motivations of the
implementers of the Web browser at Microsoft? 

The only thing more accurate than incoming enemy fire is incoming
friendly fire.           

This posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Simon St.Laurent [mailto:simonstl@simonstl.com] 
> Sent: Friday, October 04, 2002 10:09 AM
> To: xml-dev@lists.xml.org
> The recent battles over HLink have left me reminiscing about 
> some pleasanter times, on a cruise ship, with Jon Bosak 
> talking about the early history of XML and how it came to be 
> in its present form.  (I was not involved in any of these 
> activities, so people are very welcome to correct me.)
> XML seems to have been conceived as three parts: Syntax, 
> Styling, and Linking.  In the SGML world, these three were 
> largely represented by SGML itself, DSSSL, and HyTime, but 
> all three of those were widely seen as overly complicated and 
> were only rarely implemented completely.  
> I believe Jon said something to the effect that they didn't 
> think it mattered which project they tackled first, but 
> syntax turned out to be the first project, and it became XML. 
>  The other two projects evolved into Extensible Stylesheet 
> Language (XSL) and Extensible Linking Language (XLL), though 
> XSL is more commonly referred to as XSLT and XSL-FO (to avoid 
> confusion with the MSXML XSL) and XLL became XLink.
> All three of these have interesting trajectories, not least 
> because "SGML for the Web" has always seemed to have a 
> certain lack of interest in the HTML Web that preceded it and 
> which continues.  (All interpretations of those trajectories 
> from here forward are definitely mine, not Jon Bosak's!)
> XML directly on the Web seems to have fallen victim to the 
> notion that XML needed a transformative style approach, 
> missing the easy opportunity that CSS provided for document 
> display and requiring people to use XSLT.
> That notion has also provided Microsoft with plenty of cover 
> for their (non-)approach to XML in the browser, which may 
> have successfully kept XML off the ordinary Web.
> XSL ran into several challenges, though it seemed to keep 
> going its own way regardless.  The XSL community seemed, from 
> the perspective of a CSS user, to have little interest in and 
> much contempt for the notion of formatting through annotation 
> generally and CSS particularly.  The "Formatting Objects 
> Considered Harmful" argument may not have bothered people who 
> considered FOs a necessary result of a transformation, but it 
> certainly troubled those of us who had hoped XML would 
> encourage the sharing of computer-interpretable information.
> XSLT came through as a powerful set of tools for developers 
> who could take the time to learn them - great stuff, though 
> not something I throw at even advanced Web developers 
> lightly.  XSL-FO sorted out differences with CSS and finally 
> reached Recommendation.  It's great stuff for producing print 
> documents, but I don't think we need to worry about FO-based 
> "Semantic Firewalls" any time in the near future.
> XLink just kind of stalled.  It seemed to me that most of the 
> XLink WG was more interested in getting more elegant and 
> sophisticated hypertext than HTML provided on to the Web than 
> in figuring out whether the Web and its developers were 
> actually interested in it.  On xlxp-dev, simple links were 
> commonly described as grudging accomodations to the HTML way 
> of linking, and frequently cursed for complicating the 
> underlying model of linking.  
> Bill Smith described XLink at JavaOne (1999? 2000?) as 
> "bringing hypertext linking on the Web up to the early 
> 1970s".  For those of us who credit HTML with bringing 
> hypertext linking to public consciousness, I'm not sure that 
> the early 1970s was all that much more exciting than 1996.  
> XLink did reach Recommendation status eventually, but to be 
> honest I'm not really sure why.
> On the bright side, XML has certainly found use beyond 
> traditional Web development, and XSLT has found plenty of use 
> in styling (mostly generating HTML or HTML+CSS, ironically 
> enough) and in many other transformation situations.
> There's nothing particularly to be sad about, but I think I 
> still look forward to "XML on the Web". Maybe this could 
> eventually emerge from a development style that looks more 
> closely at what the Web does well and what XML can add 
> instead of piling more features into XML or creating formats 
> designed for usages only tenuously connected to the Web.  The 
> REST folks seem headed in the right direction, but I hope to 
> see more of this in more general Web development.  Though I 
> don't think XLink was the right answer, we still need a 
> hypertext answer (AFs? CSS per Opera?) to get XML on the Web.
> Lots of good questions yet to answer, even after years of work.
> -------------
> Simon St.Laurent - SSL is my TLA
> http://simonstl.com may be my URI
> http://monasticxml.org may be my ascetic URI 
> urn:oid: is another possibility altogether
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