XML is boring (long --- sorry)

Simon North north at Synopsys.COM
Fri Sep 11 10:19:50 BST 1998

Peter Murray-Rust says that XML is boring because there are few 
(public) applications ... I think it's even worse than that. Let me 
explain ...

When I was trying to demonstrate the potential of an Intranet back in 
1992, using Netscape 1.1 and CERN's httpd I was able to put together 
a quite impressive webette quite quickly. Thus far I agree with 
Peter, we have nothing 'sexy' to show people and, worse, precious 
little for them to be able to try for themselves. Yes, we have a few 
editors but without some kind of rendition there's nothing visible.

I recently gave a presentation about XML to one of the leading 
technical documentation companies in The Netherlands: 

- I showed them XML in Mozilla (the August build is quite stable 
  under NT now) and sketched some of the possibilities opened up by 
  transclusions (single-source online and paper documentation is 
  still the philosopher's stone of the tech writing world, believe 

- I demonstrated 'islands of data' in IE 5 (I'm still worried that on 
  my three-day visit to Redmond for the XML Summit --- a fascinating 
  event --- not a single thing was said about XLL support), important 
  because these people do a lot of catalog publishing and a web 
  browser is a perfect solution for multi-platform delivery (why 
  worry about Mac/Unix/PC/resolution monitor problems when a 
  Microsoft and Netscape have off-the-shelf answers?). 

- I talked about vendor support (yes, I'm *still* waiting for Adobe 
  to finally fulfill their promise to release an upgrade for 
  Frame+SGML to support XML). 

- I showed them IE4's support for structured graphics and discussed 
  Microsoft's committment to VML (vital for interactive docs where 
  hotspot maintenance is an even bigger problem than link 

- I described Office 2000 and all the features that Microsoft say 
  they will implement (HTML round-tripping, HTTP server's as 
 folders, XML metadata)

- I showed them Chrome ('scuse me but for interactive demos, etc. it 
  is still *cool* even if it isn't exactly leading edge).

- I even (as far as I am able since it's still in R&D) discussed my 
  own implementation of XML as a data format for algorithm synthesis
  model definition files in a new Synopsys product ... and how I hope 
  to be able to single source online presentation and printed 
  documentated from the same source code.

Where this is all leading to? ... a conclusion from one of the 
attendees that "XML is a programming language". Now, maybe I'm 
over-reacting, but I've never thought of SGML as a programming 
language. I find it very hard to keep a straight face at even the 
suggestion that HTML might be a programming language. Remembering 
what John Bosak said at SGML Europe '98 (it's been repeated 
several times since) about how we musn't be trapped into letting XML 
become just a data format, the view of XML as a programming language 
made me wonder if that danger might be a lot closer than we all 

So. Please, I give resounding support to Peter's plea. Have a look at 
XML chess or some other "sexy" application. Don't let XML become a 
delivery format for (D)HTML ... 

My 25 cents,

Simon North

xml-dev: A list for W3C XML Developers. To post, mailto:xml-dev at ic.ac.uk
Archived as: http://www.lists.ic.ac.uk/hypermail/xml-dev/
To (un)subscribe, mailto:majordomo at ic.ac.uk the following message;
(un)subscribe xml-dev
To subscribe to the digests, mailto:majordomo at ic.ac.uk the following message;
subscribe xml-dev-digest
List coordinator, Henry Rzepa (mailto:rzepa at ic.ac.uk)

More information about the Xml-dev mailing list