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RE: [xml-dev] Are documents loosing the web?

(finally catching up with this thread)

One of the reasons that the "document" model is so compelling on the Web 
is that it's closely tied to linking, I think.  Let's say I have a program 
that's just running along.  I want to show you something from that 
program.  What do I link to? 

Now consider something like Google maps.  It's not as obviously a 
"document" application as would be a simple Web page.  You can drag the 
map in a nearly analog way, you can zoom, etc.  Crucially, though, there's 
a sort of document metaphor layered on all this.  If I want to show you 
the map of the W3C's Headquarters, I can ask my client and get this link (
).  So, there's a sense in which the state of the application is modeled 
as a nearly infinite set of documents, a subset of which I see in sequence 
a I interact with the application.  That's not a concept that we would 
have bothered to apply to the structure of Lotus 1-2-3, say, because there 
was no value.  In that application, you just zoomed, scrolled, etc., and 
most of the application's state would be saved to a file when you asked 
for that. 

So, I think it's too facile to just say that the time is passing for 
documents as an organizing principle for applications.  It's always been a 
tradeoff, but I would argue that the Web, and linking in particular, 
encourages us to think in terms of document views of applications, at 
least in many cases.


Noah Mendelsohn 
IBM Corporation
One Rogers Street
Cambridge, MA 02142

Len Bullard <len.bullard@uai.com>
02/01/2008 01:42 PM
        To:     Michael Kay <mike@saxonica.com>, "'Eric van der Vlist'" 
<vdv@dyomedea.com>, xml-dev@lists.xml.org
        cc:     (bcc: Noah Mendelsohn/Cambridge/IBM)
        Subject:        RE: [xml-dev] Are documents loosing the web?

The question is then, is every document that can be received eligible to 
received by any and all receivers?  Otherwise, where is the 'defined' and
presumably shared interpretation to be found.

I really don't have sympathy with the document position.  It begs the
complexity of having all applications available to all other applications
all the time.   That's Panglossian.

Walled gardens are not just a fact of the web.  They are a preferred way 


From: Michael Kay [mailto:mike@saxonica.com] 
> I do believe that the document paradigm is the best one for 
> the web for this reason and a number of other ones and I 
> think that fat client applications should remain a niche in 
> the web rather than the other way round. 

I certainly think the paradigm of sending a document is a nice and simple
one, and highly extensible to allow the document to contain various kinds 
active content in the cases where that's needed. (I also think it would 
been nice if it were more symmetric - sending documents in both 

I do have some sympathy with the notion - paraphrasing Norm - that if 
going to send a document to the browser, every string of Unicode 
should be a valid document with a defined interpretation. I don't think
that's loosening the standards, it's tightening them - in the past with 
a subset of documents had a defined behaviour and the rest were displayed
however the browser chose. It doesn't stop authors who want to use a
stricter syntax with potential for error checking and validation from 
that, but it does mean that the amateurs who churn out junk are going to
have their junk displayed the same way by every browser, which seems a 
forward from having every browser display it differently.

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