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More predictions to mull over

I see that Elliotte Harold has published another set of XML predictions http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/xml/library/x-xml2007predictions.html  This set particularly intrigued me because they remind me very much of what my 2002 predictions might have been if I had written them down. 5 years ago, as best I recall without digging through the xml-dev archives, I would have predicted more or less what he is predicting for this year:

-          XQuery would be close to a Recommendation and fuel demand for native XML databases of the sort my then-employer developed.

-          I don’t think Atom was even a glimmer in 2002, but I’m sure that by 2003 the RSS mess was getting pretty ugly and I thought that Atom would clean it up.

-          XForms seemed ready to provide a non-hacky way to generate real XML data from a browser.

-          An XML processing model soon would validate the idea of XML pipelines (Software AG also had an XML pipeline product at the time and we co-submitted the processing model note http://www.w3.org/Submission/2002/01/)

-          The Semantic Web would continue to be a longshot due to inherent difficulties with authoritative metadata.

-          StarOffice’s clean XML format would finally provide a credible alternative to MS Office.

-          People would grok that XML+CSS and/or XSLT in the browser made all the ugly hassles forcing semantic markup into HTML unnecessary

-          The web services stack would collapse under its own complexity, and alternatives along the lines of Ruple / JavaSpaces / XMLSpaces would emerge as a way to get enterprise-ready quality of service with REST-like simplicity.

-          Alternatives to IE would flourish (I think I was an Opera devotee back then)

-          There would be a backlash against XML’s complexity and serious danger of a counter-revolution (http://www.xml.com/pub/a/2001/05/02/champion.html was written in 2001, but I still Believed in 2002)


I’ll recuse myself from the Microsoft-related predictions this time around, but the only prediction in these lists that I still agree with is the Semantic Web one (“The Achilles heel of the Semantic Web may well be the complete disinterest of most authors in producing anything remotely approximating metadata for their pages” as Elliotte put it in his article linked above.)  I also think I know why I was wrong about some of the others back then (and why I believe Elliotte is likely to be wrong this year):  People just don’t seem to care about the ugliness of RSS/OPML, HTML forms, MS Office XML formats, the WS-* stack, and dear old XML itself. They don’t want something that “changes the architecture of the house”, they want to slap on a new coat of paint if things get too hideous.  What they do care about is whether the technologies that are easiest to adopt are less horrible than what they are currently doing without them.  Or as Steve Yegge put it in his widely-linked piece http://steve-yegge.blogspot.com/2007/02/next-big-language.html   “If you want to spare yourself a lot of angst in deciding which programming language to use, then I recommend this simple rule: Go ugly early.” A corollary might be “If everyone is going ugly, don’t bet that beauty will prevail.”  


I’m not completely sure I disagree with Elliotte’s prediction about WS-* “Even a derailed train has a lot of momentum, so people will still be talking about Web services in 2007. However, nobody will be listening.”  I don’t have firsthand knowledge of this stuff anymore, but it does seems inconceivable that so many companies would spend so much money, and so many smart people would spend their time, on standardizing a train wreck that “nobody” is paying attention to.  On the other hand, this is more or less the story of CORBA – lots of time and money spent on something that has vastly underperformed relative to its initial hype.  Still, I tend to agree with Eric Newcomer http://blogs.iona.com/newcomer/archives/000457.html “WS-* has a lot of critics but no good proposals for alternatives. …The adoption of Web services is increasing year over year, and yet the opposition voices grow louder.”  In other words, it looks like the enterprisey people have “gone ugly early” but there’s no train wreck in progress.  But  I would love to hear dissent from people who do have eyewitness accounts of the alleged train wreck.


So, was I on target in 2002 and now it’s just the evil mind control rays from Redmond Building 666 that keep me from seeing that the time is NOW and that beauty really will prevail this year… or is Elliotte in the same reality distortion field that  I was in 5 years ago?  I guess we’ll know in 11 months.




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