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Re: [xml-dev] xml-dev Digest 7 Nov 2013 14:35:15 -0000 Issue 2878

On this forum, XML is always discussed as a pure technology, in terms of abstract requirements like "separation". 

I don't think this was XML's cause, in retrospect.  I think XML is better seen as a response to (and enabler of) globalization. Its was the economics not the software engineering.

SGML was all about reducing the number of keystrokes that would be required to mark a document up: missing tags, short tags, general entities, default attributes, short references, etc.   Fingers were expensive.

With globalization, the tactic of management towards costly fingers stopped being minimizing keystrokes and shifted to cheaper fingers. The economic rationale for those features disappeared, and suddenly those SGML features started to be decried as bad design, unnecessary and unnecessarily complex: and lo XML was born. People involved at that time, finding themselves in the new world, might not have been aware that they were chanelling the spirit of the age, being children of their time.

If you have a techno-centric view of XML's history, that it was caused (rather than formed) fundamentally by a desire for simplicity and purity, then the lack of a continued evolution in XML in the direction of satisfying ever more abstract loveliness must be puzzling.  But if you take the economic view, however, then what is needed for a big new advance is some new international economic requirements. For example if, in the age of Snowden, business and government decided they wanted field-level encryption and security in documents, rather than just file level, that could provide the economic impetus for a new mix.


On Fri, Nov 8, 2013 at 2:16 AM, Michael Kay <mike@saxonica.com> wrote:
> Some time later on, my brain fully exploded when I realised that there is no clean layered separation possible (at least that I could envisage) that would still give you all the features of full-on SGML.
> Some time later on, I concluded that this is inevitably true in any powerful text processing system because semantics - real semantics - is on great big hermeneutic circle.

XML could have achieved far better separation if it had chosen. The intertwingling of the physical and logical layers caused by the rule that elements must be well-balanced within entities is a quite unnecessary constraint on implementation modularity; the interactions between entity expansion and syntactic parsing within DTDs are even worse. I don't think it's at all true that these complications are inevitable.

Michael Kay


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