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   Partyin' like it's 1999

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  • To: xml-dev@lists.xml.org
  • Subject: Partyin' like it's 1999
  • From: Michael Champion <michaelc.champion@gmail.com>
  • Date: Tue, 26 Oct 2004 10:01:50 -0400
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  • Reply-to: Michael Champion <michaelc.champion@gmail.com>

We're coming up on the 5-year anniversary of the mother of all xml-dev
permathreads, about whether XML and the related specs are too complex
and in need of  simplification.

Like most conflicts, the flamewar had multiple roots that become
apparent when scanning through the xml-dev archives for
October-November 1999.   There were threads about disillusionment with
XML interoperability, the elements vs attributes debate, the creeping
realization that the namespaces spec was going to create massive
confusion, fear that the emerging schema spec would create even more
confusion, and discussion of the numerous pitfalls of external parsed

This led to a tongue-in-cheek 'announcement' by Rick Jelliffe on
November 11, 1999 of "XML 2.0 alpha"
http://lists.xml.org/archives/xml-dev/199911/msg00289.html which
removed all the controversial bits of XML 1.0,  i.e. everything but
data and optional comments.  To Rick's horror (IIRC), this led to a
serious proposal by Don Park for a "Simplified Markup Language" or SML
 http://lists.xml.org/archives/xml-dev/199911/msg00300.html  Things
got so roasty-toasty for awhile that on Nov 28 Don started an sml-dev
mailing list to offload this discussion from xml-dev.

I was reminded of this bit of history from reading various articles
and weblog posts over the last week or so.  For example, in  XML
Journal we have http://www.sys-con.com/story/?storyid=46771&de=1 
"Where Does XML 1.0 Go Astray?".  This gets into sml-dev territory
with complaints about namespaces as well as the character handling and
whitespace confusion in XML 1.0.   Likewise, writeups of the Sells' 
XML Developers Conference http://www.sellsbrothers.com/conference/
last week noted  a certain amount of disillusionment with XML, driven
especially by  Chris Andersen's "Developers Hate XML"  and by Sam
Ruby's "XML is an Attractive Nuisance"  presentations.  This even made
the mainstream trade press: "XML Developers Push for Simplicity"

It's also clear from these writeups that XSD has stopped being
controversial -- EVERYBODY hates it :-)  OK, that's an exaggeration,
but the mainstream of XML developers, even the web services and
relational database folks who allegedly steamrollered it through the
W3C, are finding it inadequate ... and many are taking RELAX NG more
seriously.  As Kurt Cagle
put it, "RNG was designed from the bottom up to be a compelling
language for defining schemas, XSD was designed from the top down as
being a wish-list for vendor support of certain features."

So, 5 years later ... is it NOW time to think seriously about cleaning
up the core XML specs  to address the challenges that real-world
non-XMLgeeks have with them (hopefully without throwing out the
interoperability baby with the bathwater), is it time to redouble
efforts to educate non-XMLgeeks on why they should eat their XML 1.0
veggies and stop whining, will better tools and best practice
guidelines solve the problems, or what?


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