State of browsers/JUMBO

Michael Kay M.H.Kay at
Wed Sep 2 13:20:02 BST 1998

> As a result of the lack of browsers I have spent time
investigating how
>JUMBO2 might be expanded to meet 'most' needs...
> I have repeatedly suggested that we develop these tools
communally and
>have offered JUMBO on this basis. I've had a few replies,
but not as many
>as I would have hoped.

Some observations:

- I tried (more than once) downloading Jumbo and exploring
what it could do for me. I didn't make much progress.
There's clearly an enormous amount of functionality there,
but I found it very hard to know where to start. I've had
the same experience with downloads of other XML software
(most recently XML Toolkit), and I dare say others have had
the same experience with my own SAXON library.

- I suspect that as a community the thing we are desperately
lacking is a commonly understood architecture. We're all
writing bits of code that do useful things with XML, but we
don't have a clear vision as to what the total set of
capabilities should look like or how its components should
relate to each other. I think this is why it's hard to take
something like Jumbo and discover quickly what pieces of the
jigsaw it supplies.

- Having all these people produce free software is great,
but the downside is that most of it was written to satisfy
the intellectual creativity and/or parochial application
requirements of the individual author, which means that the
boring parts of software development, like working out who
the users are and writing good task-oriented documentation
to meet their needs, have been sadly neglected. Perhaps this
is why real product developers like Microsoft seem to be
slow. Fred Brooks, I recall, said that writing a one-off
program is one-tenth the effort of producing a software
product that does the same thing.

Regarding Simon's essay, I don't share his pessimism. I
don't personally regard client-side browser support for XML
as particularly urgent, I'm quite happy to do rendition
server-side either on demand, or in many cases at site
generation time. One reason is that the client-side model
(along with XLink and XSL) seems to assume that the web of
XML documents has the same topology as the web presented to
the user, which I think grossly underexploits the ability of
XML to separate the information structure from the user
view. I think a much more valuable development would be the
integration of XML with database technology. (And in
practice, I'm actually using XML mainly for "EDI" style
applications. )

Mike Kay

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