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   Re: [xml-dev] The XML Backlash

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On Sat, 4 Dec 2004 00:38:26 -0500, Michael Champion  
<michaelc.champion@gmail.com> wrote:

>  I wonder if there are analogous cases in the history of technolgy
> (ahem, besides SGML?) where a set of good ideas got out of control.

HTML came immediately to my mind in this context.  You had a basic good  
idea that caught like wildfire, was used for all kinds of thing not  
originally anticipated, and was extended willy-nilly.

The low point came around the turn of the century, where the complexity of  
what was being attempted was continuing to accelerate.  At the same time  
we had a bunch of good ideas about how to address the outstanding  
problems... and even standards built around those ideas (XHTML CSS2 etc)  
but support that was so patchy that most applications couldn't act on it.

In the intervening years incredible progress has been made.  Not to say  
that HTML doesn't still have problems or that browsers compatibility is no  
longer a problem... but with serviceable and improving CSS support and  
serviceable and improving browser DOM model consistency, we're now doing  
exactly the things with browser facing code that we were frustrated and  
stymied on in 2000.

At the same time many of the things people once tried to solve with HTML  
or build into HTML have branched and are more healthy because of it.  SVG,  
MathML, Flash, PDF, SOAP (or REST if your prefer), etc...

My take is that we are today with XML where we were in 98 with HTML.   
There are a bunch of recognized issues, a bunch of different solutions,  
work arounds, etc.  We're working on recognizing problems as belonging to  
"classes" so that when we look at solutions we can distinguish between  
things that solve problems and things that solve important classes of  
problems.  We're working on figuring out what makes sense to solve in XML  
and where it makes sense to branch out (the binary XML proposals seem  
balanced on this line).

> If so, what happened? Did people just learn to ignore the cruft and
> stick with what worked without worrying about it?   Did the mess get
> re-factored back into the good ideas plus whatever was learned on the
> way ? Did the whole thing -- wheat, chaff, babies, bathwater -- get
> replaced by something else?

My experience is that it's a combination of the first two.  You always  
have to take the useful pieces and ignore the rest... that's true anytime  
you use a general purpose tool for a specific application.  But best  
forward momentum comes from an evolution that includes refactoring.

It's a judgement call just how closely each generation of solutions should  
be based on the last.  My personal opinion is that future generations of  
XML are going to carry forward large portions of what we have today.  That  
some critical needs will be met by updating XML fundamentals and the rest  
will be met by a clear branching of concerns (as MathML meets the needs of  
equation layout without altering core HTML).  And that backwards  
compatibility will fall on the backs of the developers of the next  
generation of XML applications.

Just my 2c...





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