Musing over Namespaces

David Megginson david at
Wed Dec 15 03:17:31 GMT 1999

"Don Park" <donpark at> writes:

> My concern is that XML namespace standard seems to encourage
> proliferation of proprietary tags such as the three 'purchase'
> tags in your example.  With just three companies, we have three
> different tags that basically means the same thing.

Yes, and that's the natural *second* stage of standards development:
first you allow innovation, then you figure out what to standardize.
So you start with


and then you bring everyone together for a while, bash heads, and hope 
that you end up with


It's messy, but it's the only standards path that really seems to
work.  At least with Namespaces we can remove 50% of the messiness
(there's no chance of confusing different party's extensions) on the
way to standards Nirvana.

> Of course, this sort of problems are usually 'fixed' retroactively
> through the standardization process but such an approach has some
> disadvantages such as:
> 1. we get caught up in the 'mess-up/clean-up/repeat' cycle.
> 2. resulting standards are likely to be much larger than
>    per-word granuarity that spoken languages use.

As for #1, that's not a problem, that's The Right Way To Do it.  We
have to let the market mess up first so that we can figure out where
to invest our effort; otherwise, we waste our time and everyone
else's, because we're not smart enough to standardize in advance.
It's not pretty, but that's inevitable when we're dealing with humans
rather than machines, and the market brings its own, different kind of 
efficiency to the process.

I'm going to write a paper with a catchy title on this topic some day,
so that I can make US$45M like Eric Raymond just did from "The
Cathedral and the Bazaar."

All the best,


David Megginson                 david at

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